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Printed for Private Circulation. 

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(Entered at Stationers' Hall.) 







This Memoir was written at the request of 
Sir Josiah Mason's Executors — Mr. G. J. Johnson, 
his intimate friend and legal adviser, and Mr. 
Martyn Josiah Smith, his grand-nephew — who 
desired that an authentic record should be pre- 
pared of one who unselfishly devoted to works of 
charity and education the wealth acquired in the 
course of a long and laborious life. The materials 
for the Memoir had been in a large degree, obtained 
from Sir Josiah Mason himself, consisting partly 
of his own memoranda, and partly of notes made 
by the Author of conversations held with him. 
The volume, designed for private circulation, by 
gift of the Executors, is issued on the 87th 
anniversary of Sir Josiah Mason's birth. 



2Srd February, 1882. 




Birth and Early Life .... 1 

1795 to 1822.— Ancestry— Parentage— Birth (1795) — 
Early Occupations — Cake Selling — Baking — Shoe 
Making — Carpet Weaving — Removal to Bir- 
mingham — Marriage — Learns a New Trade — A 
Bitter Disappointment. 


Starting in Business . . . .19 

1822 to 1825.— Engagement with Mr. Harrison— The 
Split Ring Trade — Dr. Priestley and Mr. Harrison 
— Early Steel Pens — Prosperous Progress in Busi- 
ness — Belief in Providential Guidance. 


The Steel Pen Trade .... 30 

1828 to 1842.— Early History of the Trade— Dr. Priestley's 
Pens — Perry's Pens — Mitchell and Gillott — 
Mason's First Pens — Introduction to Perry — The 
Slitting Press — Drane's Machines* — Meeting with 
Mr. Gillott — Mason and Sommerville — Gas Muffles 
— Development of the Pen Trade. 



Electro Plating : Elkington and Mason 43 
1842 to 1865.— Sketch of Electro-Metallurgy— Elkington's 
Patents — Wright's Discoveries — Mason joins 
Elkington — Difficulties of Working Patents — 
Manufacturing resol7ed upon — Rapid De7elopment 
of the Business — The Exhibition of 1851 — Narra- 
ti7e of Dr. Siemens — Herr Krupp's Rolling 
Machinery — Copper Smelting at Pembrey — The 
Pembrey Schools — India-rubber Ring Making. 

The Mason Orphanage and Almshouses . 62 
1858 to 1869.— Early Love of Children— First Idea of 
the Orphanage — Indiscriminate Charity — Proposal 
for a Public Orphanage — Interview with Dr. Miller 
— A Munificent Offer — Religious Difficulties : The 
Catechism — Project Abandoned — The Orphanage 
Mason's own Work — The Progress of the Scheme 
— The Almshouses for Women — The Orphanage 
and Almshouses Trusts — The Orphanage Endow- 
ments — Description of the Building — Sketch of 
the Founder in the Orphanage. 

The Mason Science College. . . 95 

1870 to 1881.— Origin of the College— Preparing the 
Trust Deed — Appointment of Trustees — Arranging 
the Plans— ^Laying the Foundation Stone (February 
23, 1875) — Autobiographical Notes — Site of the 
College — Description of the Building — The 
Architect — The Deed of Foundation — Opening of 
the College (Oct. 1, 1881)— Dr. Huxley's Address 
— Mr. Johnson's Statement — Formal Transfer of 
the Building. 




Biographical Ngtes, Illness, and Death 137 
Opening of the Orphanage — Public Recognition of the 
Founder — Honour of Knighthood — A Serious 
Illness — Consultations with French Physicians — 
The Malvern Water Cure — Journey to France and 
Italy — Mason's Various Residences — His House at 
Erdington — Home Occupations — Declining Health 
— Last Illness — Death (June 16, 1881) — Funeral 
in the Orphanage Grounds — Commemorative Texts. 


Personal Characteristics . . .151 

Sketch of Mason's Appearance — Two Portraits — "The 
Business Mouth" — His Enterprise in Business — 
Remarkable Physical and Mental Energy — Organis- 
ing Faculty — Care of his Workpeople — Habitual 
Caution — Retiring Disposition — Cheerfulness of 
Character — Religious Views — Belief in Providential 
Interpositions — Largeness of his Aims. 

Trustees of the Orphanage . . .169 
Trustees of the Science College. . 171 


Birth and Early Life. 

Josiah Mason was, in all respects, a self-made 
man. He had no advantages of birth, or con- 
nexions, or education, or means. So far as regarded 
the probability of wealth or of personal eminence, 
no life could have begun in a manner less 
promising. He started, indeed, not so much upon 
the lowest round of the ladder, as at the very 
foot of it, with little chance, as it seemed, of 
getting so high as the first round. He was not 
even a mechanic by any formal training, for he 
was taught no trade, served no apprenticeship, 
was inducted into no " art " or " mystery " of 
handicraft. How this happened is not very clear ; 
but his own recollection was distinct that it was so, 
and that he stood a good chance of going through 
life as a labourer in the ordinary sense, or of 
earning a precarious livelihood by turning his 
hand to those odd jobs which fall to the lot 
of one who, according to the common saying, is 
jack of all trades and master of none. From this 
shiftless kind of life Josiah Mason was preserved 
by his natural resolution, ingenuity, and industry, 



and by an innate conviction that, somehow or other, 
he must do something in the world, both for him- 
self and for others. 

It has been already said that Jo3iah Mason's 
known ancestry does not go back very far. His 
grandfather, on the father's side — also named 
Josiah — was a working bombazine weaver at Kid- 
derminster, a good mechanic, an inventor in a 
small way, a musical amateur of considerable power, 
and a man who could, on occasion, turn his hand 
to anything in the way of dealing with machinery 
of a simple character. In his day such help was 
not readily available in country places, and old 
Josiah was consequently in request as a mender 
of looms, and a sort of doctoring engineer of the 
water mills then much in use in that part of the 
country. The old man seems to have been some- 
thing of a humourist, of social habits — a good 
smoker, his grandson remembered — and very proud 
and fond of the lad who, all unknown to him, 
was in after years to make his name famous. 

The grandfather had an only son, also named 
Josiah, who, on growing to man's estate, married 
Elizabeth Grittiths, the daughter of a respectable 
workman at Dudley. This Josiah Mason was 
taught hi* fat hern trade of bombazine weaving, 
which he afterwards exchanged for carpet weaving, 
mid ultimately for the position of clerk to Mr. John 
Broom, a carpet manufacturer at Kidderminster, 


by whom he was much trusted, and whose con- 
fidence he appears to have well deserved. 

Our Josiah Mason was the second son of 
the couple just mentioned — who had three other 
children, two boys and a girl. One of the 
sons died young ; and the other son and the 
daughter have now been dead for some years. 
Josiah was born on the 23rd of February, in the 
year 1795, at a little house in Mill Street, Kidder- 
minster, a circumstance identified with the place, 
the upper part of Mill Street being now called 
Josiah Mason Street, to commemorate a benefaction 
given by Sir Josiah to the dispensary of the town. 
Indeed, though separated from Kidderminster at a 
comparatively early age, and never having since 
had any direct communication with it, Sir Josiah 
Mason always cherished a keen memory of his birth- 
place, and a strong regard for it ; this feeling is 
distinctly marked in the foundation deeds of his 
Orphanage and his Scientific College, by which 
preference in both institutions is directed to be 
given to children belonging to Kidderminster, his 
earliest home, as to Birmingham, the home of his 
maturer years and of his old age. In the College 
deed he caused formally to be set forth his birth 
and early occupation at Kidderminster, and his 
desire to connect the name of the town, and the 
interests of its inhabitants, with both the College 
and the Orphanage. 


Thanks to his munificence and to his wise 
educational provisions, the young people trained in 
these institutions will enjoy advantages denied to 
the Founder of both. His parents were unable 
to give him anything beyond the merest elements of 
school teaching. Such instruction as he had was 
obtained at a dame's school, held in a cottage next 
door to his father's house. It is not unlikely that, 
from his temperament, and his bias towards a busy 
life, the boy scarcely cared for confinement at 
school, even had the circumstances of the family 
allowed them to keep him there. It is certain that 
as early as eight years old he began to work, and, 
characteristically enough, on his own account. It 
was a very humble line of business — that of selling 
cakes in the streets. When speaking of his early 
life, as he frequently did, Sir Josiah Mason used to 
recount with much humour, but not without a touch 
of honest pride, his entrance upon " trade" : how 
he held the position of a kind of middleman in the 
business, going to the baker's, and buying his cakes 
at sixteen to tho dozen, putting them into a couple 
of baskets, neatly fitted up by his mother — a clean, 
thrifty, kind of woman, as ho described her — and 
going his rounds among his regular customers, with 
whom tho little follow became so great a favourite 
that thoy waited for " Joe's oakos " and rolls, and 
Bometimos gave him a penny extra, quite as much 
out of kinduoss for tho vendor an of liking for his 


wares. When the cakes and rolls were disposed of, 
the lad occupied himself in a curious branch of 
industry. Copper money was plentiful in those 
parts amongst the workpeople, and silver was scarce, 
so that the tradesmen were a good deal troubled 
with their accumulations of copper. Young 
Josiah, always ready to turn his hand to anything, 
saw that he could make a trifle out of this per- 
plexity, and so he sought and obtained work in 
sorting the coppers, arranging them, and wrapping 
them up in five-shilling packets — a service for 
which he was remunerated by the fee of a penny to 
the pound. His next venture was of a more 
ambitious character. The cake-baskets were turned 
into panniers, and were slung over the back of a 
donkey — loftily named after Admiral Eodney — and 
Josiah Mason converted himself into a dealer in 
fruit and vegetables, which he carried about from 
door to door. In these enterprises — simple and 
homely as thus recorded, but important enough to 
him at the time — the lad was encouraged by his 
mother, who contrived to help him out of her own 
scanty means, and to see that he had what 
he gained by his industry. His father, ac- 
quiescing in this arrangement, seems only to 
have contributed a piece of advice — valuable, no 
doubt, in its way, and upon which the son 
prided himself upon having acted in later life : 
" Joe (said the father) thee'st got a few pence ; 


never let anybody know how much thee'st got 
in thee pockets." 

So the boy s life went on until Josiah was 
about fifteen years old. By this time he grew tired 
of the trade of the streets, and began to wish for 
more settled employment. One reason which in- 
clined him to this desire was a feeling of kindly 
sympathy for his elder brother, who had become a 
confirmed invalid, and was confined to his room. 
It was necessary for the comfort of the sick boy 
that some one should sit with him in the chamber. 
The father was, of course, away at his employment ; 
the mother had her house-work to do ; the other 
children were too young. So Josiah determined to 
make himself nurse and company-keeper ; and this 
resolution obliged him to find some business which 
could be carried on at home. He chose shoe- 
making ; and contrived to teach himself the trade, 
by diligently watching an old shoemaker who lived 
near his father's house in Mill Street. The choice 
of occupation was due to accident. One evening, 
in the twilight, he saw the old shoemaker trying to 
make a " wax-end "— holding up the thread and the 
wax against the imperfect light, and finding that 
age had so dimmed his vision and dulled his sense of 
touch that he could not manage to put them deftly 
together, Josiah stepped up to him, and offered to 
try. The trial was a success : the old shoemaker 
declaring that he had never had a better or neater 


wax-end to work with — and so Josiah watched and 
studied the other processes of shoemaking, until he 
had mastered them for himself. He began work, 
he told the writer, as a mere cobbler, by mending 
shoes ; then he bought some leather, and ventured 
upon making a pair of soles ; this led to shoemaking 
proper; and at last, with pardonable pride, the 
young artisan carried a pair of shoes of his own 
making to Mr. Clymer, then the principal boot- 
maker in Kidderminster, and asked for employment. 
The business, however, did not answer very welL 
Josiah was too strict a stickler for quality : he 
bought the best leather, and put into it the best 
work, but the price was too low, and in later years 
he used humorously to say, " I found I couldn't 
make it pay, and must become bankrupt, and so I 
gave it up." 

During this time Josiah Mason was not un- 
mindful of other matters besides money-getting. 
Conscious of the defects of his education, he 
managed to teach himself writing, and, acting on 
his principle of turning everything to useful 
account, he obtained casual employment as a letter 
writer for poor people who had not mastered the 
art for themselves. At this occupation, including 
the writing of valentines— some " coloured " and 
some " plain " — he picked up money enough to buy 
a few books, and the newly developed taste for 
reading led him to borrow others. All of them 


were of a solid character — works on theology, 
history, and science. Novels, poetry, and other 
" light literature " were excluded from the course ; 
indeed, it may be doubted if he ever read any work 
of fiction in his life. In these studies the youth 
was considerably helped by lessons received at the 
Unitarian Sunday School — the well-known Kidder- 
minster Old Meeting, formerly Kichard Baxter's 
chapel — and by later attendance at the Wesleyan 
Sunday School, where, on alternate Sundays, he 
went for the purpose of making pens for the use of 
learners of writing, which was then commonly 
taught in Wesleyan Sunday Schools. The increase 
of knowledge brought by his reading naturally led 
Josiah Mason to become still more impatient of his 
irregular employments, and induced him still more 
strongly to desire definite occupation. For a time, 
however, he found it hard to settle to any trade. 
Shopkeeping was the first that succeeded to shoe- 
making. His mother opened a little shop, about 
1812, for the sale of groceries. It was a somewhat 
peculiar branch of business, for the chief customers 
were tramps and beggars, who then drove a roaring 
trade, and made Kidderminster a principal place of 
call on their journeys. They were very choice, 
these gentry, in their requirements. They used a 
then well-known lodging house in Mill Street, and 
after emptying their wallets in the evening, and 
selling the contents, they would go to Mrs. Mason's 


shop, and buy little packets of gunpowder tea, 
which then sold at a guinea a pound, and of loaf 
sugar, which cost nearly six shillings a pound: 
these luxuries being kept ready for them in ounces 
and half-ounces ; and Josiah Mason being an active 
agent in dispensing them to the strange customers. 
To the shop was ultimately added a bakehouse, 
much used for the cooking of Sunday dinners, which 
Josiah superintended. The shop, however, was not 
a trade, and Josiah consequently turned his atten- 
tion to several kinds of handicraft. He tried 
carpenter's work, then blacksmith's, then house 
painting, and made some progress in all, but was 
satisfied with none, and was too restless to make 
himself master of any of them. Then, at his 
fathers instigation, he fell back upon the staple 
trade of the town — carpet weaving — which he began 
in 1814, when he was nineteen years old, at Mr. 
Broom's works, at Tinker's Hill. Here he stayed 
for about two years, and thoroughly mastered the 
business, turning out work of a quality so good 
that it was often shown by his employer to older 
workpeople as an example. Praise of this kind was 
very grateful to the young artizan, but it did not 
yield the solid profit he desired. The carpet 
weaving offered no satisfactory prospect for the 
future of his life. Wages were low, Kidderminster 
trade was not improving, the processes were 
cumbrous and tedious, the pecuniary results were 


comparatively trifling. Mason came at last to the 
conclusion that a pound a week — all that could be 
realised after payment of loom rent, and providing 
the necessary assistance of boys at the looms then 
used — was not enough for him. So he began to 
think of a wider field, and more remunerative 
and promising employment. 

Birmingham — then a town of about 100,000 
inhabitants— was at that time, as now, the 
capital of the Midlands, and the natural centre 
of attraction to people who desired to better their 
condition. For a considerable time Sir Josiah 
Mason had been under what he described as a 
strong, indeed an overwhelming impression that 
" he must go to Birmingham." He had an uncle 
there, Eichard Griffiths, his mother's brother; 
and when he was about twenty-one he resolved 
to pay a Christmas visit to his relatives, to see 
Birmingham for the first time. His intention 
was to return to Kidderminster, at least for a 
short period, and to go on with the carpet weaving 
until some better opening presented itself. But 
this design was destined not to be fulfilled. The 
visit to Birmingham was the turning point of 
the young man's life and fortunes : he never 
went back to live at Kidderminster, but, happily 
for himself and for Birmingham, remained all the 
rest of his life a resident of the "Hardware 
Village "-the familiar name of Birmingham in 


the paat genoratio,, It „ the habit of Sir 
Josiah Mason reverently to trace in the events 
of his life the direct action of an over-ruling 
Providence, and in his later years he was accus- 
tomed to cite his early removal to Birmingham 
as one of the most signal proofs which to his mind 
justified this impression. Had he remained at 
Kidderminster, he might never have risen above 
the rank, or possessed more than the means, of 
a journeyman carpet weaver; or at most, those 
of a little master — for without capital to provide 
machinery there was no chance there of entering 
into business on a large scale ; while the staple 
trade of the place offered no prospect to a work- 
man of beginning on a small scale, and of gradually 
pushing on to larger enterprises. In this respect 
Birmingham presented a great advantage. The 
variety of its trades afforded a wide field of choice 
to an industrious man with some skill in mechanics. 
It was easy for such an one, beginning as 
a journeyman, to commence business on his own 
account, with no more capital than would suffice 
to provide his tools. The factors and merchants 
were prepared to buy goods offered to them by 
little garret masters — workmen who employed a 
few boys, with perhaps a man or two — and the 
larger manufacturers had usually in association 
with them some of these out- workers, as they were 
called. A sober, steady man, beginning in this 


way, had every chance of extending his business, 
and of gradually passing into the ranks of the 
regular manufacturers. This was, indeed, the 
origin of several if not most of the leading 
Birmingham firms. Many anecdotes are told, by 
persons now living, of the growth of gkat 
businesses from such humble beginnings — masters 
working alongside their men, living at their work- 
places, gradually taking in another shop or so 
as trade increased, putting down (and not un- 
frequently inventing) a new piece of machinery 
as it was wanted, and thus by degrees creating 
establishments which, often in the time of their 
founders, and more frequently in the next genera- 
tion, grew to colossal proportions and acquired 
world-wide reputation. This was the kind of 
community which, as a young man of twenty-one, 
Josiah Mason entered — a town fast rising in popu- 
lation, wealth, and influence ; an industry varied 
beyond computation, and embracing every kind 
of metal work, from the great engines made at 
Soho, to the steel trinkets forged and filed and 
polished in some garret in a bye-street ; an army 
of workers energetic, ingenious, and inventive 
in the highest degree, capable of independent 
exertion, and at the same time susceptible of adapt- 
ing themselves to the higher organisation of large 
factories. It was precisely the place to suit Mason, 
who, as we have seen, was possessed of courage, 


industry, and activity, and who was qualified to 
develop an organising faculty which had, later in 
life, an important influence upon his own fortunes, 
and upon the trade of the town. 

Mason's visit to his uncle decided his life 
in two most important aspects — business and 
marriage. As regards the latter, he made the 
acquaintance of his cousin, Anne Griffiths, and 
married her at Aston Parish Church, on the 
18th of August, 1817 — an union prolonged, in 
unalloyed happiness and mutual confidence, for 
fifty-two years, when, to the great grief of the 
survivor, it was dissolved by the death of 
Mrs. Mason, which occurred on the 24th of 
February, 1870. For about twelve months after 
settling in Birmingham Mason lived with his 
uncle, and after his marriage he removed to a 
little house in a court in Baggott Street, and later 
to a house and small manufactory in Legge Street, 
where Mason had charge of a business belonging 
to his uncle. The following account of his 
connection with this employment is derived from 
his own statements, made to the writer of this 
memoir. Mr. Griffiths, Mason's uncle, was a clerk 
and manager at Messrs. Gibbins's glass-works in 
Baggott Street, and had invested his savings in a 
gilt toy business — then, as now, an important 
Birmingham trade, and which included the 
production of common jewellery, gilt rings, buckles, 


chains, fancy buttons, clasps, and personal 
ornaments of all kinds. As his occupation at the 
glass-works prevented him from doing more than 
attending to the books and accounts in his leisure 
time, Griffiths took a partner to conduct the 
working department of the trade. Difficulties and 
disagreements arose between the partners, and it 
became advisable to have a thorough examination 
of the business and the stock. To help him in 
this enquiry, Griffiths requested the services of his 
nephew Mason. In the course of the investigation 
the partner suddenly left Birmingham, throwing the 
concern upon Griffiths's hands. It was essential to 
find somebody who could take charge of it, and 
who could be trusted in doing so ; and this led to 
Josiah Mason consenting to remain for a time in 
Birmingham to look after his uncle's interests, for, 
with his characteristic intelligence and activity, 
he had, in the course of stock-taking, acquired a 
sufficient knowledge of the business to be able to 
manage it. At this time he had not given up the 
idea of returning to Kidderminster ; nor had 
Mr. Broom, his former employer, who repeatedly 
invited him to come back, and kept his loom 
vacant for nearly two years in the hope that he 
might comply. But it was not to be. Mason's 
prospects in Birmingham brightened sufficiently to 
induce him to decide upon remaining in his new 
home ; amongst the inducements offered to him 


being a promise voluntarily made by his uncle that 
if he stayed and worked up the trade to its full 
capacity, he should have a share of it for himself. 
For between six and seven years Mason devoted 
himself to this undertaking, with all the zeal and 
industry of his energetic nature — striving early 
and late, opening up new sources of business, 
looking closely to the cost of manufacture, and 
specially insisting upon the prompt, punctual, and 
honest execution of orders. The result was that 
he recovered all the money his uncle had invested, 
but had nearly lost, paid off all the debts of the 
concern, increased its value as a business, enlarged 
its profits, and finally had the satisfaction of seeing 
a good sum of money standing to its credit. This 
was no slight thing to be accomplished by a young 
man who had received no training in a manu- 
facturing business, whose experience up to manhood 
had been limited to the life of a small town, and 
whose early occupations were scarcely calculated 
to develop habits of industry and order. Naturally, 
and justly, t Mason looked for the reward which 
had been promised to him. He was destined to 
a cruel disappointment — a blow so severe that 
even after the lapse of sixty years the effects of 
it were still traceable, whenever the subject recurred 
to his mind, for although with the lapse of years 
the bitterness of the deception had disappeared, 
he invariably spoke of the incident as if the pain 


it once caused him were still keen and fresh in 
his memory. At the time, the intended breach 
of an honourable engagement came upon the young 
man as a surprise. An intimate friend of his 
uncle's had told him that the promise of a part- 
nership was not intended to be kept — some 
adverse influences, which, after so many years 
have passed it is not needful to recall, having 
been brought to bear upon his uncle's mind. 
Conscious of his own honesty, and unwilling to 
suspect the good faith of others, Mason refused 
to believe the story. It was repeated, with 
proofs too clear to be disregarded. In his plain 
straightforward way, the young man went direct 
to his uncle, and asked him if the report were 
true-if the promised reward for his industry, 
faithfulness, and skill were to be denied him, at 
the moment when its fulfilment was due? He 
learnt that the story which he had heard was 
indeed too true ; that, in fact, negotiations were 
then pending for the sale of the business to 
another person. Mason felt, with inexpressible 
keenness, the cruelty of the sudden unlooked-for 
blow to his hopes, and he felt the deception still 
more acutely. He was, however, too proud to 
complain, and too full of self-reliance to despair. 
His resolution was instantly taken. "I will 
never (he said) re-enter the place. I have done 
with it at once and for ever." The Griffiths 


family tried to shake his resolution ; the purchaser 
of the business, a Mr. Bakewell, then a rule- 
maker in St. Mary's Square, tempted him with 
offers of large ,pay — £300 a year — to remain as 
manager. But those who thought he would give 
way were mistaken in their man. Mason's life- 
long characteristic was to adhere with unswerv- 
ing firmness to a resolution once taken, and to 
follow a course once decided upon. So, without 
knowing where to look for work, or, indeed, what 
work to do, he severed his connection with a 
business which he had made his own, stimulated 
by the promise that it should be his own in 
course of time. The purchaser, Mr. Bakewell, was 
put in possession of the place, Mason's accounts 
were rendered with exactness, and then he left the 
concern — to seek employment where he might. It 
is worth mentioning that after the severance above 
described, the business did not prosper ; Mr. Bake- 
well fell into difficulties, and committed suicide; 
and many years afterwards his widow was one of 
the first inmates admitted by Mason into the 
almshouses which he had built and endowed at 
Erdington. To complete this part of Ms life, it 
may be stated that while engaged in his uncle's 
business, Mason showed evidences of the desire 
which he so nobly realised by his foundations — that 
of promoting the education of children. He 
attended the Wesleyan Chapel in Belmont Row, 


Birmingliam (of which his uncle Griffiths was one 
of the chief members), and taught in the Sunday 
School attached to it. He also taught in the 
Wesleyan Sunday School at Erdington, the place 
at which, in later years, he established his 
own residence, his almshouses for women, 
and his princely orphanage. When, as an 
old man, talking with his friends of the in- 
cidents of his career, he frequently dwelt with 
pleasure upon this coincidence of his earlier and 
his later years, and he used to mention, as an 
instance of kindly religious sympathy, that Mr. 
Joseph Webster, of Penns, an Unitarian, provided 
the desks and fittings for the Wesleyan Sunday 
school at Erdington. 


Starting in Business. 

Bitter as was the disappointment above 
described, it was no doubt the best thing that 
could have happened to Josiah Mason — however 
black it might look at the moment — for it 
introduced him to the business which laid the 
foundation of his fortunes. The writer of this 
memoir has often heard him tell the story of 
how this came about. It was in 1822 — when he 
was twenty-seven years old — that he left the gilt 
toy business in Legge Street, and was thrown 
upon his own resources, with little money in 
hand and no work in prospect. He was 
walking in the street, thinking, not over cheer- 
fully, on what could be done, when a gentleman 
— a stranger — stepped up to him, and said, " Mr. 
Mason?" "Yes," was the answer. "You are 
now, I understand, without employment ? " "Yes," 
again. " Then I know some one who wants just 
such a man as you, and I will introduce you to 
him. Will you meet me to-morrow morning at 
Mr. Harrison's, the split-ring maker, in Lancaster 
Street?" "I will," said Mason; and so they 
parted. This Good Samaritan proved to be Mr. 
Heeley, a steel toy maker, and who probably 
knew Mason through his connection with the 


Wesleyans, to which denomination the Heeleys, 
an old and respected Birmingham family, belonged. 
Next morning, as appointed, the two met at Mr. 
Harrison's, and Mr. Heeley promptly opened the 
business by saying, " Here, Mr. Harrison, I have 
brought you the yery man you want." Mr. 
Harrison was a plain, blunt, old-fashioned man, 
with much of the humour which then characterised 
his class in Birmingham. He did not close too 
briskly with Mr. Heeley's offer of his new-found 
protfg&. "I have had a good many young men 
come here (he said), but they are afraid of dirty- 
ing their fingers." At this, Mason, who had kept 
silence, involuntarily opened his hands, looked at 
them, and speaking to himself rather than to 
the others, said quietly — '" Are you ashamed of 
dirtying yourselves to get your own living ? " It 
was an unstudied touch of nature : Mr. Harrison, 
who had a keen insight into character, was 
instantly struck by it. A few enquiries satisfied 
him of Mason's capacity and of his willingness to 
work. Before they parted, an agreement had been 
come to, characteristic on both sides : "I have 
built myself a cottage," said Mr. Harrison, " and 
am going to it on such a day. I shall take my 
furniture out of this house ; you can come and live 
here, and bring your furniture in." The associa- 
tion thus formed was never broken. As a young 
man of twenty-seven Josiah Mason went to live 



in Lancaster Street, in a house with the work- 
shops behind it, and a pleasant garden behind them. 
When at nearly eighty he retired from the busi- 
ness, his manufactory occupied the same site, with 
pretty nearly an acre of ground besides; and in 
one part of the pen works Mr. Harrison's original 
business as a split-ring maker was still carried 

A noteworthy feature of this connection be- 
tween Mason and Mr. Harrison was that there 
was no agreement as to the remuneration of the 
former. Mason removed his household goods into 
Harrison's premises, and took charge of the busi- 
ness, and so for about a year affairs went on — 
Mason taking from the receipts as much money 
as was needed for himself and his wife to live 
upon, and Mr. Harrison finding the amounts 
required for trade purposes, and taking the profits. 
No stronger proof could be given of the absence 
of a merely mercenary taint in Mason's disposition : 
Mr. Harrison had put confidence in him when he 
needed a friend, and he was willing to serve 
without any thought of self. Prudence, however, 
dictated some kind of settlement of the relations 
between the two. At the end of twelve months, 
Mason spoke to his employer on the subject. 
Mr. Harrison's reply was that, on fair payment 
for it, he was willing to sell the business, and to 
retire altogether; and he advised Mason to go 


and see if anybody would lend him the money 
to purchase it Such assistance had been promised 
to him by more than one person, at a time when it 
did not seem likely to be wanted ; but now that 
it was required, the proffered help was refused — 
the plea of the nominal friends to whom Mason 
applied being that it would be folly to lend 
money to a man to enter upon a business with 
which he was unacquainted. Thus disappointed, 
Mason came again to Mr. Harrison, and frankly 
told him of his failure to obtain the money. Mr. 
Harrison, who had contracted a strong friendship 
for his assistant, now showed a noble generosity. 
He had money* enough for his own simple 
wants, he had no near relatives to provide for, 
he did not care to continue the personal oversight 
of business, and he did not feel justified in taking 
the profits for himself while another did the 
work. So he practically made a gift of the trade 
to Mason. Nominally it was a sale. " Give me," 
said Mr. Harrison, " £500 for the stock and the 
business, and pay mo that amount out of the 
profits as you make them." The value of the 
bargain may bo inferred from the facts that the 
first £100 woh paid in August, 1823, and the 
last £100 in May, 1824. To the close of his 
life Sir JoHiuh Mutton kopt, as a precious relic of 
his old friend and manter, the little octavo 
memorandum book in whieh those payments were 


entered, together with other records of ordinary- 
trading transactions. On the last leaf of the 
book were Mr. Harrison's entries of receipts for 
£500, the purchase money: the only accounts which 
ever existed between the two. 

Nothing could have been simpler than this 
transaction; nothing more honourable to both 
parties to it. The old manufacturer, who had made 
what he desired — a modest competence — and who 
wished to be free in his declining years to enjoy it, 
recognised in the probity, industry, and intelligence 
of the younger man the qualities requisite to the 
successful conduct of a business in which, while 
retiring from it, he still felt a strong interest ; and 
which he desired to see conducted on the same 
principles as those which had governed his own 
conduct of it. The confidence thus displayed by 
Mr. Harrison was justified by his associate so 
entirely that a close and tender friendship, lasting 
throughout the remainder of Mr. Harrison's life, 
sprang up between the two. Though he had ceased 
to have any direct concern in the business, Mr. 
Harrison was a constant visitor at Lancaster Street, 
where he assisted his successor with advice and 
encouragement, and with that kindly sympathy 
most valuable to a young man entering upon a new 
enterprise. It was not only, however, in the office 
and the workshop that Mr. Harrison interested 
himself. When the day's work was over he was a 


welcome and honoured guest by the fireside, and 
was regarded, indeed, as a member of the little 
family : more as an elder brother, or a second 
father, than as an ordinary friend. The feeling of 
affection, and even of veneration, inspired by Mr. 
Harrison permanently existed, with unabated force, 
in the mind of his friend. In his old age Sir 
Josiah Mason was never weary of speaking to those 
who were honoured with his intimacy, of the 
sterling qualities, the kindliness, the honesty, and 
the capacity of Mr. Harrison — to whom, indeed, 
Sir Josiah traced all the success which attended his 
own business life, and enabled him to engage in the 
works of benevolence connected with his name and 
perpetuating his memory. 

But little is known of Mr. Harrison, except- 
ing through Sir Josiah Mason's recollections of 
their connection in his later years. The scattered 
facts relating to him prove, however, that he 
deserved to be reckoned amongst the long line of 
ingenious and honourable manufacturers who have 
created the reputation of Birmingham, and have 
laid the foundation of her industrial prosperity. 
His trade — the split-ring making — was only a minor 
one amongst the many branches of metal working 
in the town ; but he contrived to make it profit- 
able by his industry and ingenuity. Before his 
time these rings were laboriously made in small 
numbers, by filing and bending; but Mr. Harrison 


adapted the stamping press to the manufacture of 
them, and he was the inventor of the flat ring now 
commonly used for bunches of keys. He was a 
great friend of Dr. Priestley during the doctor's 
residence in Birmingham ; and he used, with much 
glee, to tell Mr. Mason how Dr. Priestley could not 
be got to understand the manner in which split- 
rings were made, until he was taken into the 
workshop in Lancaster Street, and shown the 
operation of the stamp, which made the ring at 
a single blow, on which, Mr. Harrison said, the 
doctor " threw up his hands, and exclaimed, ' With 
all my philosophy, I could not have dreamt of such 
a thing ! ' " It was not only by initiating him into 
the mystery of ring-making that Mr. Harrison was 
associated with Priestley. He took part in some 
of the doctor's philosophical experiments, particu- 
larly in those relating to the air gun, and to the 
electrical machine ; and on Dr. Priestley complaining 
that he could not get satisfactory pens to write 
with, Mr. Harrison set to work and made him some 
steel pens — the first, no doubt, that were produced 
in Birmingham. Of these pens Sir Josiah Mason 
long had some specimens, given to him by Mr. 
Harrison. They were made about the year 1780, 
out of sheet steel, formed into a tube, and filed 
into shape ; the joining of the metal making the 
slit. Dr. Priestley was highly gratified with his 
novel writing instrument, and commonly used it ; 


and Sir Josiah Mason told the writer that he also 
had, for a long time, used some of Mr. Harrison's 
pens, and had found them excellent. One incident 
in Mr. Harrison's life may be recorded here. He 
was an Unitarian, a member of Dr. Priestley's con- 
gregation at the New Meeting. When the Church 
and King mob, in 1791, set itself to the business of 
sacking the houses of the Unitarians, Mr. Harrison 
hurried to his friend Dr. Priestley's residence at 
Fairhill, near the town, to see if he could render 
help in protecting it. He was too late, however, to 
be of service, for he found the building in flames. 
Lingering amongst the crowd, he heard the rioters 
talking of other houses that were next to be 
attacked, and amongst them his own was men- 
tioned. Prompted by a not unnatural desire to 
save his property, he ran as fast as he could 
back to Lancaster Street, closed the shutters, and 
chalked upon them the talismanic inscription — 
" Church and King ! " Scarcely had he got inside 
the house than the mob made its appearance. The 
ringleaders read the unexpected words upon the 
shutters, raised a cheer, which was heartily repeated 
by their followers, and then the whole body 
marched away, to carry on the work of destruction 
in other quarters of the town. Thus Mr. Harrison 
saved his property ; but, when telling the story to 
Mason, he added, " It was the only transaction of 
my life of which I felt ashamed !" Mr. Harrison 


died in 1833, at the age of seventy-four, and was 
buried in St. Philip's church-yard, where his tomb- 
stone may still be seen. 

Eeturning from this digression to the proper 
subject of this memoir, we have Mason fairly 
started in a lucrative business on his own account, 
free from all difficulties, and with fortune before 
him. Considering his early perplexities, and his 
recent disappointment, it was by no means a bad 
beginning for a young man of eight and twenty. 
At the least, it promised competence, and perhaps 
affluence, as the result of some years of labour. 
Looking back to that time, it was his (Josiah 
Mason's) habit to confess that, in familiar phrase, 
he had much to be thankful for. He had been 
led, as he believed by direct Providential guidance, 
to come to Birmingham just when his uncle needed 
assistance in his trade, and this had fixed him in 
the town, and had marked out the course of his 
future life. When his just expectations were de- 
feated, a good opening had been disclosed to him 
— again, as he believed, by the interposition of 
Providence — at the very moment in which his 
prospects appeared to be especially unpromising. 
At a comparatively early age, by the generous 
kindness of his friend Mr. Harrison, he became 
the master of a business of his own, and was thus 
^put into a position to make his way in the world 
by independent exertion. From that period his 


career was one of uninterrupted prosperity, so far 
as regards business affairs ; and this prosperity 
was due to unremitting industry, to a high degree 
of inventive and organising skill, to knowing when 
and how to venture large sums in new enterprises, 
and to a rare faculty of dealing with men ; and, it 
may also be conceived, to a certain loftiness of 
aim in the ultimate use of whatever wealth he 
might acquire, it being always in his mind to 
do something for the poor, and especially for the 
education of children, for whom — though he was 
not blessed with any of his own — he had a strong 
feeling of affection. 

That the business acquired from Mr. Harrison 
was well worth having, we have already seen, 
from the fact that the purchase money was paid 
out of profits in little more than six months. Three 
years later, in 1828, Mason had not only extended 
his trade by taking in new premises, but had 
bought the premises at 36, Lancaster Street, in 
which the business was carried on. These ad- 
vances were rendered easier by the rapid expansion 
of the split-ring trade under Mason's conduct of it, 
through improvements which he devised in the 
means of production. Amongst these, the most 
important was his invention of machinery for 
" bevelling " hoop rings. These rings were then 
made by hand, slowly and at considerable cost. 
Mason saw that they could be made much more 


quickly and cheaply, and so, setting his ingenuity 
to work, he devised a bevelling machine. By this 
improvement he gained £1,000 in a single year, 
the improved rings then selling at sixpence each. 
The machine, constructed so far back as 1825, is 
actually at work at this date in the manufactory in 
Lancaster Street, and is doing its work as well 
as ever — no slight tribute to the skill of the in- 
ventor, and the soundness of his workmanship. 


The Steel Pen Trade. 

Soon after taking to the split-ring business, 
Mr. Mason added to it a new enterprise — that of 
steel pen making. At first the manufacture was 
conducted by him on a small scale, and was con- 
fined to the production of barrel pens ; but after a 
little while it was extended, and by his connection 
with Mr. James Perry, the inventor of the Perryian 
pens, Mason became very largely engaged in the 
trade, and ultimately obtained the position of being 
the largest pen-maker in the world. It has been 
mentioned that his predecessor, Mr. Harrison, made 
steel pens for Dr. Priestley, as far back as the year 
1780 ; but these were not in any sense articles of 
commerce. Early in the present century, however, 
barrel pens began to be made in Sheffield, in 
Staffordshire, and in Birmingham ; and in 1828 
Mason began to make them. Some time before 
this date — as early as 1825 — Mr. James Perry had 
engaged in the pen trade in Manchester, and after- 
wards in London. He was thus in advance of 
Mitchell, or Gillott, or Mason ; but his pens differed 
from theirs by not being entirely machine made. 
The blank was stamped, and was then filed into 
shape, and a mark for the slit was made while the 


metal remained in a soft condition. After harden- 
ing, the pen was struck with a small hammer, and 
by thus cracking it at the place previously marked, 
the slit was formed. Pens thus made were, of 
course, much more costly than if they had been 
produced entirely by machinery. Mr. Perry not 
only made barrel pens, but also "slip" pens, for 
which goose quills were used as holders, but these 
were also slit in the manner above described. 
" Perry/' Sir Josiah Mason says in a memorandum 
in the writer's possession, " was not the first maker 
of steel pens, but I have no doubt that he was the 
first steel ' slip' pen maker, and no doubt the first 
to use a goose quill as a holder : hence the slip. 
But Perry certainly never made a pen as they are 
now made — namely, by cutting the slit with press 
tools — all he made were made with the cracked 
slit." There is a great distinction implied in the 
preceding sentence. Slitting by machinery is the 
essential feature of the steel pen manufacture as 
now conducted ; and the question of real interest 
in the trade is not who was the first maker of pens 
of steel, but who first made pens by machinery as 
a mechanical process, and thus enabled them to be 
cheaply sold as articles of common use. The credit 
of this great improvement belongs unquestionably 
to three persons, all of them working in Birming- 
ham — Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Gillott, and Mr. Mason. 
The first named had slightly the priority in date : 


the others began about the same time — both, un- 
known to each other, hitting upon the plan of 
making the slit by the press and the die, instead of 
by means of cracking. There was, however, one 
considerable difference between them. The names 
of Mitchell and of Gillott became well known as 
pen-makers, while the name of Mason remained 
obscured — for the reason that while the others dealt 
in pens on their own account, Mason for many 
years supplied all he made to Mr. Perry, and 
stamped them solely with Perry's name. This was 
commonly supposed to have been his own choice, 
for throughout his life he desired to remain as little 
known as possible — having, indeed, a feeling of 
positive shrinking from notoriety. But, in regard 
to the pen-making, Mason did not desire to con- 
ceal his name. He consented to do so only in 
accordance with a business arrangement. This 
is proved by a memorandum drawn up by him in 
1874, the original of which is now in the hands of 
Mr. Maurice Pollack, who was for many years 
associated with him in the pen-works. It is as 
follows: — "In the year 1827 I made barrel steel 
pens, and in the year 1828 I saw a steel * slip' pen 
of Perry's make. I at once conceived the idea of a 
great improvement, and made and sent one to 
Perry. This brought him down from London that 
night to see the man who made that wonderful 
steel pen, as he was pleased to say. His excitement 


was excessive; he returned, and in the same week 
came again, bringing Mr. Hayes with him, and 
they at once said they would not return until some 
arrangements were made about the future. The 
first thing they proposed was to bind me in ada- 
mantine chains to make those pens only for them. 
Then came the important question about the name. 
It being my invention, I contended that my name 
should show itself. It was a long and important 
matter to decide. I gave way for their name (that 
of Perry) by their undertaking that no other persons 
should make pens for them, and that they would 
enter into any agreement I required for that pur- 
pose ; and for forty-six years I have been the only 

Mr. Mason's introduction to Mr. Perry, touched 
upon in the foregoing note, and his consequent 
entrance upon steel pen making upon a large 
scale, happened in a curious way. The following 
account of it is transcribed from a paper written by 
himself in 1873 : — "About 1829, 1 saw in a book- 
shop window in Bull Street, Birmingham (Mr. 
Peart's), nine ' slip' pens on a card, marked three 
and sixpence. The novelty, and the thought of 
Mr. Harrison's pen, induced me to go in. Mr. 
Peart was writing with one of the pens. He said 
it was ' a regular pin/ I instantly saw that I could 
improve upon it, and offered to buy one of the pens. 
Mr. Peart, however, would not sell less than the 


whole card ; but at last he consented to sell me the 
one he was writing with, and so I bought the 
'pin' for sixpence. I returned home, and made 
three pens that evening, and enclosed the best of 
the three in a letter, for which I paid ninepence 
postage — what a change now, to only one penny I 
I had not the slightest knowledge of the maker ; 
but having, with difficulty, made out the letters 
stamped upon the pen I had purchased, to be 
' Perry, Ked Lion Square, London/ I sent my letter 
there. This brought Mr. James Perry to 36, 
Lancaster Street, the following day but one, by 
eight o'clock in the morning; and from that moment 
I became a steel pen maker. Perry and Co. were 
my only customers for many years. From our 
first interview to the present time I have been the 
sole and only maker of the Persian and the steel B 
pens sold under Perry's name." At first the pens 
were sold to Mr. Perry in comparatively small 
quantities. Sir Josiah Mason's books show that in 
1829 and 1830 the supplies consisted of twenty or 
thirty gross at a time. The first lot of one hundred 
gross at one time was despatched to London on the 
20th of November, 1830. In 1831, pens to the 
value of £1,421 were made by Mason for Mr. Perry, 
and from that time — as the demand grew with 
reduced prices — increased machinery and a larger 
number of workpeople were provided to meet it, 
until Sir Josiah Mason became the largest pen- 


maker in the world, and employed by far the largest 
number of "hands" in the trade. After making 
an agreement with Mr. Perry as above mentioned, 
Mason went into the new business with his cus- 
tomary energy and method. From the first he 
declined to depend upon any one besides him- 
self. Obtaining steel wire from Sheffield, he set 
up rolls to reduce it to the required thickness 
for pen-making, and had the necessary presses 
made under his own superintendence by Mr. 
John Drane, a machinist then well known in 
Birmingham. Some of the original presses are still 
in constant work in the factory. One part of 
the process of pen-making — now commonly known 
— was then kept profoundly secret by Mr. Gillott 
and Mr. Mason. This was the method of slitting 
pens by means of the press, instead of by the 
old and uncertain method of cracking. Mason 
himself, with his own hands, made the dies and 
punches required for the slitting, and the presses 
in which these were fixed were worked by two 
or three women, in a separate room, to which 
none but the actual workers and their master 
were admitted. So jealous was the system of 
exclusion that even Drane, the machinist, who 
made the presses, never saw them in action, 
fitted with the necessary dies and punches, 
although all other parts of the business were 
freely open to him. Drane thought, however, 


that he had mastered the secret, and he con- 
sequently made a number of presses, with which 
he set up as a pen-maker. But though he 
produced admirably shaped and finished pens, the 
slit was never properly made, and the presses 
were therefore useless. The vexation of this failure 
is believed to have hastened Drane into the grave. 
An estrangement had grown up between him and 
Mason, in consequence of the rivalry which Drane 
had attempted ; but on his death-bed he sent for 
Mason, and a reconciliation so complete took place, 
that Drane expressed a strong desire that the 
whole of his pen-making tools should pass into the 
hands of his former friend, as a gift. This, how- 
ever, Mason refused ; but he was desirous to 
buy the tools, an intention which was thwarted 
by Drane's executor, who sold the presses to a 
St. Petersburg firm, and they were exported to 
that city. 

Another fact of personal interest is worthy 
of being put on record. It has been stated that 
Mason and Gillott began pen -making by machinery 
about the same time, and unknown to each other. 
They had no personal acquaintance for nearly two 
years afterwards, when Mr. Gillott one day met 
Mr. Mason in the street, introduced himself, com- 
plimented him upon the quality of his pens, and 
there and then proposed that they should go into 
partnership, saying as an inducement — " Let us 


join, and not another man shall make a pen 
besides us." This anecdote Sir Josiah Mason 
related as an illustration of the friendly spirit 
and honourable rivalry which existed between the 
two leading pen-makers. He added, that though 
he declined the suggestion of working together — 
preferring to stand by himself and to continue 
his relations with Mr. Perry — yet he and 
Mr. Gillott had business transactions together. 
Mr. Mason was the first person in the trade 
to make the cedar pen-holders, with metallic 
receptacles for the " slip " pen. These he intro- 
duced in 1832 for Mr. Perry, and in 1835 he 
made them also for Mr. Gillott. His trade books 
show that as lately as 1840 he sold nearly £300 
worth of " stick pen-holders " to Mr. Gillott. 

All that relates to Mason's connection with 
the pen trade must be of interest, at least to 
Birmingham readers, and therefore it is proper to 
insert at this point a memorandum drawn up from 
personal knowledge by Mr. Maurice Pollack, which 
shows that Mason had intimate relations with other 
dealers in pens, besides those with whom he was 
originally associated : 

In accordance with Sir Josiah Mason's manuscript, he 
began making barrel steel pens in 1827, and slip pens in 1828. 
From the same document it will be seen that all the pens he 
made were marked Perry and Co. I believe this trade went on 
successfully until the time when Mr. Mason became connected 
with Elkingtons, and that it then gradually went down. In 


1852, Mr. Sansum, at that time foreman of the works, called 
upon Mr. Sommerville to ask him to sell some of their make. 
Mr. Sommerville, who had been connected in former years with 
Hinks, Wells, and Co., had left Birmingham in 1836, but had 
returned in 1851 as the agent of a Brussels firm, with which 
I was connected. I was sent over to manage the business, and 
thus became allied with Mr. Sommerville. When Mr. Sansum 
called the works did not produce more than 1,400 gross per 
week. The pens then made were very ingenious. A great 
many of them had been the subjects of patents. But the prices 
were high, and the patterns were not popular. From that time 
dates the connection of A. Sommerville and Co., which at 
first was very small. In 1852 or '53 Mr. Sansum left Mr. 
Mason (Mr. Sommerville having procured him a situation in 
France), and Mr. Isaac Smith became the manager of the steel 
pen works. Mr. Mason, a few years previously, had made 
over to his brother Kichard the split-ring works and business, 
but at the death of Mr. Kichard Mason they again became the 
property of Mr. Josiah Mason. Mr. Isaac and Mr. William 
Smith, sons of Mr. Mason's sister, were working for their uncle 
Richard, and afterwards for their uncle Josiah. Isaac Smith 
had, however, been apprenticed to the steel pen tool making, 
and at one time was the slitting-tool maker at Mr. William 
Mitchell's. He was, therefore, well qualified to take the 
management of the pen works, where his great ingenuity, 
fondness for innovation, and desire for improvement had free 
scope. He soon gave the pen trade a new start, by producing 
new patterns, which he stimulated Perry and Co. to adopt, 
and by encouraging A. Sommerville and Co. in giving them 
liberal terms. And so the trade gradually grew until 1855, 
when the works were considerably increased. A. Sommerville 
and Co. introduced Mason's produce on the Continent. Each 
pen was marked 'A. Sommerville and Co., Josiah Mason, 
manufacturer/ and the pens being of a very superior quality, 
and Mr. Sommerville a good salesman, they soon found a 
market on the Continent, which increased more and more, and 
there the Somerville-Mason pens are known to this day as the 
best pens made. Most of them continue to bear the joint 
names of A Sommerville and Co. and Sir Josiah Mason. In 1858 


the pen-works were further increased. Shortly afterwards Mr. 
W. Smith, who had worked hand in hand with his brother 
Isaac, died. At that time from eight to ten thousand gross 
were manufactured weekly. Mason invented, in 1858, a new 
pen box, which was patented. This box showed on the out- 
side a specimen pen in a recess, so that it was not necessary to 
open the box to see what there was within it. He made use of 
this invention to introduce to the trade a selection of steel pens 
bearing the marks, * Perry and Co., London ; Josiah Mason, 
Birmingham.' These pens were introduced reluctantly by 
Messrs. Perry, as it was feared they would interfere with the 
latter's regular trade. But, nevertheless, many of them found 
their way to the markets of the world, and hundreds of thou- 
sands of grosses so marked sell to-day. Thus the name of Mason 
in connection with Sommerville and Perry became gradually 
known to the .writing world, chiefly abroad; but Mason's 
arrangements with Sommerville and Perry prevented his 
trading direct with other houses, unless with their consent. 
So stimulated, the trade grew more and more. At that time 
Mr. Mason was too much engaged with his Orphanage to pay 
much attention to the pen trade, which was left almost 
entirely in the hands of Mr. Isaac Smith. 

The muffles are a very important factor in the art of pen- 
making. Originally Mr. Mason, for his smaller trade, had 
invented a rotatory muffle, but this proved impracticable for a 
larger quantity of work, and Mr. Isaac Smith's ingenuity was con- 
stantly at labour to produce a novel system of muffles, until he 
conceived the idea of using Siemens' gas generators. This brought 
him in contact with Dr. Otto Siemens, who superintended the 
building of new muffles. These had the double purpose of demon- 
strating their utility in pen-making, and the possibility of manu- 
facturing heating gas at a very low price ; to which circumstance 
was mainly due a new but abortive gas company, which intended 
to supply Birmingham, in its households and manufactories, 
with heating gas at a price lower than coal !Nor did the gas 
muffles answer at that time, as they had to give way to another 
system. It was only a few years later, in 1873, when Mr. Mason 
having recourse to Dr. G. W. Siemens, now the President of the 
Midland Institute, did, with the assistance of his engineer, 


Mr. Simcox, construct muffles heated by gas produced upon the 
premises. These are in operation to this day. Under the 
indefatigable exertions of Mr. Isaac Smith, and with the co- 
operation of Messrs. A. Sommerville and Co. and Perry and Co., 
the trade grew more and more and continued flourishing until 
the lamented death of Mr. Smith in 1868. He was succeeded 
in the management of the business by Mr. W. F. Batho, who 
took a leading part in all the enterprises of Sir Josiah Mason, 
and who also assisted in the promotion of what ultimately 
became the. Scientific College. At the beginning of 1871 Mr. 
Batho severed his connection with Mr. Mason, who having then 
completed his Orphanage, and having more leisure at his 
command, resumed personally the management of his pen works. 
Previous to that period he purchased the business of Messrs. A. 
Sommerville and Co., but the fact was not known to the public, 
Mr. Sommerville generally being abroad, and Mr. Pollack con- 
tinuing at the head of the business. The increase of trade 
accruing through this purchase induced Mr. Mason to give his 
works a new start, and for two or three years he added to them, 
until he laid the foundation for producing 40,000 gross of pens 
weekly. This quantity was, however, never reached when he sold 
his works to the trustees of a company who carry on the business 
under the title of Perry and Co., Limited. This was at the end 
of 1875, and at that time the output exceeded 32,000 gross 
weekly ; but the works embraced, besides the making of steel 
pens, that of pen-holder sticks, pen-holder tips, paper-binders, 
and a host of minor articles. Towards the end of 1873 the 
home trade was first cultivated, and a series of steel pens of the 
most perfect finish, each pen being stamped Sir Josiah Mason, 
was produced, and such pens are selling at this day. 
At the time of Sir Josiah Mason leaving the works, close 
upon 1,000 workpeople, four-fifths of whom were women, were 
employed. Some of the hands had been with him for very 
many years, and one or two of them since he started pen- 

This account of Sir Josiah Mason's connec- 
tion with the pen trade will no doubt surprise 
many persons who believe themselves to be well 


acquainted with the trades of the town. Owing to 
his connection with Mr. Perry his interest in pen- 
making was unknown, excepting to comparatively- 
few, until recent years ; and millions who used the 
famous Perryian pens never dreamed that all of 
them were made by a single manufacturer in 
Birmingham. It was the same, as Mr. Pollack's 
memorandum shows, as regards the great Con- 
tinental and American trade conducted for many 
years by Sir Josiah Mason. His foreign pens, like 
those for the home market, have been uniformly 
made for large customers — mostly one in each 
country — and the names of these have been 
stamped upon the pens; so that here, also, the 
maker remained unknown. Within a few years 
before retiring from business, Sir Josiah Mason 
began to issue pens in his own name ; and was, by 
some persons, supposed to be a new maker — 
whereas, in fact, he stood foremost in the trade as 
regarded seniority; foremost in the rank of im- 
provers, by the invention of the machine slit, at 
the same time as Mr. Gillott ; and first of all in 
the magnitude of his works, and the amount of his 
produce. The general facts above stated will give 
the reader some idea of the vastness of the estab- 
lishment, and the capacity of its resources. This 
idea may be aided, perhaps, by the further state- 
ment that at the time of Sir Josiah Mason's 
retirement about sixty tons of pens were constantly 


in movement throughout the place. When the 
reader is told that nearly a million and a half of 
pens may go to a single ton, he may form an 
estimate of the magnitude of an establishment 
capable of dealing with sixty times this number, 
and of the extent of a trade which demanded and 
consumed such a vast supply. 


Electro-plating : Elkington and Mason. 

In 1842 Mr. Mason engaged in a new enter- 
prise, in connection with which his name was 
destined to become more widely known. This was 
the electro-plating trade, then established by Mr. 
G. K. Elkington, in conjunction with his brother, 
Mr. Henry Elkington, and afterwards conducted 
for many years, with increasing reputation and 
prosperity, by the firm of Elkington, Mason, and Co. 
It is not necessary here to give a history of the 
discovery of electro metallurgy, or the application 
of the electro deposit process to the production of 
works of industrial or fine art. It will be enough 
to say that up to 1840 the method of plating 
in use in Birmingham and Sheffield was that 
of hand-plating of silver on copper, a slow and 
costly process, which was carried to its highest 
perfection by Messrs. Boulton and Watt, at 
the Soho Works, and afterwards by Sir Edward 
Thomason and other manufacturers. By de- 
grees, however, the great discovery of Volta 
began to bear fruit in the development of 
the principle he had disclosed. Further experi- 
ments were made by our own countrymen and 
others — Nicholson, Carlisle, Dr. Henry, and Dr. 


Wollaston, the last of whom, in the Transactions 
of the Eoyal Society, 1801, records the first actual 
example of the deposition of metals by the electro- 
type process — " If (he writes) a piece of silver in 
connection with a more positive metal be put into 
a solution of copper, the silver is coated over with 
the copper, which coating will stand the action of 
burnishing." In 1805, in The Philosophical 
Magazine, occurs the first indication of the appli- 
cation of the process to an artistic purpose, in a 
letter from Signor Brugnaletti, which states that 
he " gilt in a complete manner two large silver 
medals, by bringing them into communication by 
means of a steel wire with the negative pole of a 
voltaic pile, and keeping them one after the other 
immersed in ammoniuret of gold, newly made and 
well saturated. " Nothing more seems to have been 
effected until 1834, when Mr. Henry Bessemer 
electro-deposited copper on lead castings. Two 
years later Professor Daniell's battery brought 
the process of electro-deposition a long step nearer 
to useful application ; then followed Mr. De la Kue's 
experiments ; and then, in quick succession, the 
discoveries and experiments of Professor Jacobi, 
of St. Petersburg, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Thomas Spencer, 
of Liverpool, and others. The earliest endeavours 
to apply the process to commercial purposes were 
made by Mr. Gr. K. Elkington and his brother, Mr. 
Henry Elkington. In 1838 they coated military 


and other metal ornaments with gold and silver, 
by immersing them in solutions of those metals ; 
and in July, 1838, they patented a process for 
coating copper and brass with zinc by means of an 
electric current generated by a piece of zinc attached 
to the articles by a wire, and immersed in the 
metallic solution with them. This was the first 
patent in which a separate current of electricity 
was employed for plating purposes. Early in 1840 
Messrs. Elkington were patenting a process for 
coating articles of copper with silver by a method 
of fusion, and also by means of a solution of oxide 
of silver in pure ammonia, when Mr. John Wright, 
a surgeon in Birmingham, submitted to them his 
researches in the use of the cyanides of gold and 
silver in electro-plating, by which a thick, firm, 
and white deposit of silver was obtained, closely 
adhesive, and capable of resisting the action of 
the air. This process was incorporated in Messrs. 
Elkington's patent, and electro-deposition became 
a practicable art, capable of being turned to com- 
mercial account, and requiring only capital and 
industry to ensure its full development. 

It was at this period that Mr. Mason joined 
Mr. Elkington in business. They had been made 
acquainted shortly before by a negotiation on the 
part of Mr. Elkington for the purchase of Mr. 
Mason's then residence, Woodbrooke, at North- 
field, near Birmingham. As Mr. Elkington re- 


quired capital for the extension of his business, 
and as Mr. Mason showed that he had intelligence 
to comprehend the value of the new method of 
plating, and courage enough to risk his money in 
developing the process, an arrangement was 
effected between them. The actual date of the 
partnership was March 29, 1842. It required 
some courage, for the electro process was new and 
comparatively untried, and, in the opinion of "prac- 
tical " men, its success was highly problematical. 
Indeed, as Mr. Mason observes, in some notes now 
lying before the writer — " My connection with 
Mr. Elkington alarmed my dear and best friends, 
as they thought certain ruin would be the result of 
such untried speculation. Many of the platers on 
the old system called upon me, and with pure 
kindness cautioned me. I certainly had no idea 
that I could receive so much good advice from 
people I scarcely knew even by name." To those 
who looked only at the surface of things, and 
clung to old processes, from dislike of the worry 
and cost of change, or from fear of risking money, 
these cautions were not unnatural. There was 
much to do before the new process could be 
brought to perfection, or could be made a com- 
mercial success. The trade, masters and men, 
almost unanimously resisted it; and purchasers 
were difficult to persuade — they fancied that the 
product of electro -deposition could not be as real, 


solid, and durable as the articles produced by the 
old method of solid plating. Mr. Elkington, 
however, had confidence in the improved method, 
and so had Mr. Mason, who, with his partner, 
saw clearly that a scientific process, capable of 
being applied and worked to an indefinite extent, 
and by self-acting means, must ultimately displace 
the slow, cumbrous, and costly system of hand- 
plating, which was dependent upon the skill and 
quickness of a limited number of workmen. 

The first idea of Mr. Elkiogton was not to 
manufacture articles by the electro process, but to 
grant licenses under his patent. But, owing to the 
causes above stated, this was found to be almost 
hopeless. The trade would not take the licenses, 
and the patent seemed likely to run out without 
yielding valuable results to its possessor. It became 
necessary, therefore, to prove the merits of electro- 
plating by entering upon the manufacture of plated 
wares : there was no other method of demonstration 
open. Here Mr. Mason's organising faculty and 
business capacity became of the highest value. 
What Boulton had been to Watt, in an earlier 
period of the history of Birmingham manufactures, 
Mason became to Elkington. " It was not," writes 
Mr. Mason, " my first intention to take an active 
part with Mr. Elkington. I desired in this, as I 
had done in the pen trade, to suppress my name as 
much as possible ; but the great and incessant call 


for money in the business needed my personal 
care." His efforts were consequently directed to 
the work of making the new trade pay. Being 
embarked in it, he undertook this with charac- 
teristic energy, and with a power of concentrated 
labour which few men could have equalled. It 
was necessary to provide suitable buildings for a 
manufactory ; and the great establishment now 
existing in Newhall Street, Birmingham, was 
resolved upon. This was Mr. Mason's own design. 
He found the money, and laid out the plans of the 
workshops and the showroom, which were built 
entirely after his own arrangements. These works 
were intended for the production of articles of taste, 
and of those domestic articles to which ornament 
could be applied. But Mason saw clearly that for 
a considerable time the business must largely 
depend upon productions of a humbler description, 
in common use, capable of being supplied in any 
quantity equal to the demand, and of being sold at 
a comparatively cheap rate. This led to the 
establishment of a manufactory in Brearley Street, 
Birmingham, for the production of electro-plated 
spoons and forks. Here, with ample space and 
abundant means, every appliance of mechanical 
skill was provided for the preliminary processes, 
and the electro-deposition was carried on upon a 
scale which proved to the hand-platers that in the 
new method, backed by capital and energy, and 


directed by a spirit of courage and enterprise, they 
had not so much encountered a rival, as they had 
found a master, and ultimately a destroyer. Mr. 
Mason did not, however, stop here. His views and 
those of his partner extended with the growth of 
their business, and with the establishment of their 
goods in public favour. While Birmingham formed 
the head-quarters of the trade, and while visitors 
were attracted to Newhall Street from all parts of 
England, the Continent, and America, it was 
thought desirable to go boldly into the great 
markets, and consequently extensive showrooms 
and warehouses were opened in London and 
Liverpool : these being Mr. Mason's own particular 
work. After these years of labour and outlay, 
Elkington and Mason reaped a rich reward for 
their skill and enterprise. The Great Exhibition of 
1851 gave them the means of demonstrating their 
triumph ; and from that date to the present day — 
holding their ground by successive advances — they 
have stood at the head of the electro-plating trade 
throughout the world : foremost in quality and 
design, in enterprise, in the magnitude of their 
operations, and in the reputation they have 

There is no desire to claim for Mason a 
larger share than is due to him in the merit of 
this success. Other capitalists might doubtless 
have been found, in time, who would have 


developed the new undertaking. But it is incon- 
testible that the progress of the trade is due, in 
a great measure, to his insight in recognising the 
value of the improved method of plating, to his 
courage in risking vast sums of money in what 
was then confessedly an experiment, to his capacity 
for organising large works, to his perseverance in 
overcoming trade difficulties, and to his patient en- 
durance in waiting for the success which he 
foresaw. But for him, indeed, the trade- -now 
one of the staple industries of the town — might 
have gone from Birmingham altogether, for the 
obstacles which Mr. Elkington had to encounter 
here were of a magnitude and a nature to daunt 
the resolution of any single man, and to drive 
him to seek some place in which prejudice held 
less powerful sway. His fortunate association 
with Mr. Mason averted the necessity of a sacrifice 
so painful, and secured the town against a loss 
so serious. No business union could have been 
more satisfactory ; nor, it is permissible to say, 
could any have been more agreeable or honourable 
to those immediately concerned. The good under- 
standing established at first continued unbroken 
until the dissolution of the partnership, imme- 
diately before Mr. Elkington's death, on September 
2nd, 1865 ; and years afterwards Sir Josiah Mason 
recalled with pleasure the memory of his former 
associate, dwelt with interest upon the incidents 


of their connection, and narrated with kindly 
feeling the many admirable points of character 
which Mr. Elkington displayed during the long 
period for which they were in business together. 

Mr. Mason's part in the undertaking has been 
generally indicated in this brief narration. While 
Mr. Elkington stood prominent as the repre- 
sentative of the house before the public, and 
while he devoted himself to the scientific and 
artistic developments of the trade, Mr. Mason 
was the business director. He found the capital 
required at the outset, and as the undertaking 
developed, be was always prepared for new 
demands, consequent upon the increasing trade. 
He planned and organised ; he laid out the 
general scheme of the works, and mastered the 
minutest details. At the same time he took a 
keen though subsidiary interest in the progress of 
the Art work which has always honourably dis- 
tinguished the firm. In the scientific progress 
of the manufacture, and the improvement of 
mechanical processes, he was thoroughly at home, 
for these, as we have already seen, were matters 
which interested him deeply. He was ever willing, 
and indeed eager, to examine suggestions of im- 
proved method — provided always that he could 
see the probability of an ultimate useful and 
profitable application of the proposals — and when 
such methods where devised, he grudged no pains 


or cost to ascertain their value by a long series 
of experiments : himself not ^infrequently contri- 
buting valuable hints, and getting at results by 
the intuitive judgment which was one of his 
characteristics. It is only proper, therefore, to 
recognise the important share he took in the 
creation and progress of an art to which Birmingham 
owes so much, and of an establishment of which 
Birmingham is so justly proud. The visitor who 
is conducted through Messrs. Elkington's works, 
who views the magnificent collection of examples 
of Art and utility in the showrooms, or who 
examines the long series of studios, workshops, and 
depositing rooms, observing with admiration the 
proofs they afford of the triumphs that may be 
achieved by the union of science and art, of capital, 
skill, and energy, may well remember that in its 
origin and its development the vast undertaking 
and its results are greatly due to the foresight, the 
courage, the capacity, and the labour of Josiah 
Mason, in conjunction with George Richards 
Elkingtbn. Indeed, although the name of the 
firm has undergone a change, it will be known, 
by this generation at least, under the old familiar 
title of Elkington and Mason. 

In reference to this connection with Mr. G. 
E. Elkington, it is desirable to put on record 
the actual dates and duration of the partnership. 
The first deed dates from March 29, 1842, and 

DR. C. W. SIEMENS. 53 

establishes a partnership between George Eichards 
Elkington, Josiah Mason, and Henry Elkington, as 
electro-platers, the business being carried on at 
Newhall Street and Brearley Street, Birmingham. 
This partnership subsisted until July 31, 1852, 
when Mr. Henry Elkington retired, and the partner- 
ship was renewed between Mr. G. R. Elkington and 
Mr. Mason, for a term of fourteen years. It was 
finally dissolved just previous to the death of 
Mr. G. E. Elkington, which took place on the 
22nd of September, 1865. Mr. Mason, it should 
be added, was never in partnership with the 
members of the present firm of Elkington and 
Co., the sons of Mr. G. E. Elkington. 

It has been mentioned that Mr. Mason was 
always ready to consider suggestions made to him 
for the improvement of processes in which he was 
interested. One illustration of this readiness is 
afforded by an incident related by Dr. C. W. 
Siemens, F.E.S., in his address as president of the 
Birmingham and Midland Institute (October 20th, 
1881). He had referred to the International 
Exhibition of Electricity, at Paris, and thus 
proceeded : — 

" That form of energy known as the electric current was 
nothing more than the philosopher's delight forty years ago. Its 
first practical application may be traced to this good town of 
Birmingham, where Mr. George Elkington, utilising the dis- 
coveries of Davy, Faraday, and Jacobi, had established a 
practical process of electro-plating in 1842. It affords me great 


satisfaction to be able to state that I bad something to do with 
that first application of electricity; for in March of the following 
year, 1843, I presented myself before Mr. Elkington with an 
improvement on his processes, which he adopted, and in so 
doing gave me my first start in practical life. Considering the 
moral lesson involved, it may interest you, perhaps, if I diverge 
for a few minutes from my subject in order to relate a personal 
incident co / nnected with this my first appearance amongst you. 

" When the electrotype process first became known it 
excited a very general interest, and although I was only a young 
student of Gottingen, under twenty years of age, who had just 
entered upon his practical career with a mechanical engineer, I 
joined my brother Werner Siemens, then a young lieutenant of 
artillery in the Prussian service, in his endeavours to accomplish 
electro-gilding, the first impulse in this direction having been 
given by Professor C. Himly, then of Gottingen. After 
attaining some promising results, a spirit of enterprise came 
over me so strong that I tore myself away from the narrow 
circumstances surrounding me, and landed at the East End of 
London with only a few pounds in my pocket and without friends, 
but with an ardent confidence of ultimate success within my 
breast. I expected to find some office in which inventions were 
examined into, and rewarded if found meritorious ; but no one 
could direct me to such a place. In walking along Finsbury 
Pavement I saw written up in large letters, ' So and So ' 
(I forget the name), ' Undertaker/ and the thought struck me 
that this must be the place I was in quest of ; at any rate, I 
.thought that a person advertising himself as an 'undertaker' 
would not refuse to look into my invention with a view of 
obtaining for me the sought for recognition or reward. On 
entering the place I soon convinced myself, however, that I 
came decidedly too soon for the kind of enterprise here con- 
templated, and finding myself confronted with the proprietor of 
the establishment, I covered my retreat by what he must have 
thought a very lame excuse. By dint of perseverance I found 
my way to the patent office of Messrs. Poole and Carpmael, who 
received me kindly and provided me with a letter of introduc- 
tion to Mr. Elkington. Armed with this letter I proceeded to 
Birmingham to plead my cause before your townsman. 


" In thinking back to that time, I wonder at the patience 
with which Mr. Elkington listened to what I had to say, being 
very young, and scarcely able to find English words to convey 
my meaning. After showing me what he was doing in the way 
of electro-plating, Mr. Elkington sent me back to London in 
order to read some patents of his own, asking me to return if, 
after perusal, I still thought I could teach him anything. To 
my great disappointment, I found that the chemical solutions I 
had been using were actually mentioned in one of his patents, 
although in a manner that would hardly have sufficed to enable 
a third person to obtain practical results. 

"On my return to Birmingham I frankly stated what I 
had found, and with this frankness I evidently gained the 
favour of another townsman of yours, Mr. Josiah Mason, who 
had just joined Mr. Elkington in business, and whose name 
as Sir Josiah Mason will ever be remembered for his munificent 
endowment of education. It was agreed that I should not be 
judged by the novelty of my invention, but by the results 
which I promised — namely, of being able to deposit with a 
smooth surface 3 dwt. of silver upon a dish-cover, the crystal- 
line structure of the deposit having heretofore been a source of 
difficulty. In this I succeeded, and I was able to return to my 
native country and my mechanical engineering a comparative 

Some time after the incident above related 
by Dr. Siemens, another German inventor came 
to Birmingham, with an introduction from Dr. 
Siemens to Messrs. Elkington and Mason. This 
was Herr Krupp, now Baron Krupp, the founder 
and director of the great steel -works at Essen. He 
had invented machinery for rolling the metal 
" blanks," from which spoons and forks are made ; 
the object being to lengthen the blanks by rolling, 
in the manner in w^hich a piece of steel is thinned 
down, and at the same time to impart greater 


density to the metal. This machinery, protected 
by patent, he offered to Messrs. Elkington and 
Mason, at a price which Mr. Mason, who con- 
ducted the negotiation, considered too large. The 
offer made by the firm was £10,000, and Mr. 
Mason frankly told the inventor to go and try 
to sell his patent elsewhere for a greater sum, 
if he could, and if he could not, then to come 
back and take the £10,000. Her Krupp availed 
himself of the opportunity, but failed to realise 
the higher price he desired. Consequently he 
returned, and sold the invention to the Birming- 
ham firm at the sum above-mentioned. The 
rolls were first put in use in the Brearley Street 
works in 1850, and are still employed there. 
With the money thus obtained, Herr Krupp 
started his works at Essen, and laid the foundation 
of the great reputation and the colossal fortune 
he has acquired. Shortly before his death, re- 
calling this incident, Sir Josiah Mason mentioned 
to a friend that Herr Krupp had more than 
once invited him to become a partner in the 
Essen establishment, but that the invitation had 
been declined, on the ground that Sir Josiah's 
time and means were fully employed in Bir- 

Another important business, in which Mr. 
Mason was largely engaged, grew out of the 
partnership with Mr. Elkington. A well-known 


and ingenious chemist, Mr. Alexander Parkes, who 
was employed by the firm, took out a patent for 
smelting copper ores, and purifying the copper 
by means <}f phosphorus. This patent was sub- 
mitted to Messrs. Elkington and Mason, and 
acquired by them. It then became necessary to 
obtain proper works for smelting, in a situation 
convenient for the reception of the Cornish ore. 
Mr. Elkington and Mr. Mason accordingly went 
on a journey to South Wales, to select a suitable 
site for their works. They first visited Swansea ; 
but Mr. Mason, who had a strong relish for fresh 
air for his workmen as well as for himself, did 
not approve of the smoky neighbourhood; and 
they resolved to go further. Consequently they 
visited Llanelly. Here, at Bury Port, three miles 
from Llanelly, and at the mouth of the Bury 
Kiver, they found what appeared to be a suitable 
place. A company of London speculators had 
conceived the idea of making this a new port for 
the South Wales trade, and had gone so far as 
to construct a dock. The scheme, however, did 
not prosper, and the works were abandoned. When 
Mr. Elkington and Mr. Mason visited the place, 
there was nothing to be seen but the neglected 
dock, one public-house, and an extensive tract 
of sand — a rabbit warren. The position was 
excellent, the air good, the land moderately 
cheap, and the dock convenient. So this was 



decided upon as the site of the works, and twenty- 
acres of land were purchased for the purpose of 
erecting them. The direction of the undertaking 
was assigned to Mr. Parkes, the inventor of the 
process intended to be used ; and Mr. Mason 
himself undertook the general superintendence. 
Excellent works were laid out with great rapidity, 
large, well built, and specially designed to secure 
the health of the men engaged in them. By quick 
degrees a considerable village — the village of 
Pembrey— gathered in the neighbourhood; and 
it becoming known that the proprietors of the 
new Pembrey copper- works were disposed specially 
to take care of their men, this brought an ample 
choice of the best class of workpeople. The firm 
took full charge of them. Suitable cottages were 
built, each cottage having a garden allotted to it ; 
collieries were opened to supply coal; schools 
were erected for 350 children, and provision was 
made for religious instruction. In short, on the 
site which a little while before was a lonely and 
desolate rabbit warren, there grew up a thriving, 
populous, and healthy village, with the copper 
works as its centre, and an important trade was 
created, which remains in a flourishing condition 
to the present date, and is now conducted by a 
member of the firm of Elkington and Co. 

During his connection with the copper works, 
Mr. Mason took a particular interest in them, 


and especially in the schools established for the 
children ; his love of children, and his intense 
desire to promote their education, being already 
strongly developed. These Pembrey schools con- 
stituted, indeed, the forerunner of the great 
works of charity to which he has since devoted 
his fortune for the benefit of poor children. He 
often recounted, with kindly feeling and much 
humour, the difficulties which were encountered in 
the task of getting the children under instruction. 
The schools were excellent in character and 
arrangement, and a thoroughly good master and 
mistress were engaged; but despite these advan- 
tages, the classes remained empty, or nearly so. 
The Welsh copper-smelters and colliers obstinately 
refused to allow their children to be taught 
English. Free education did not tempt them; 
rules were made and broken, orders were dis- 
regarded. Mr. Mason, to use a homely phrase, 
was at his wits' end to know how to get the 
children into the schools. At last he hit upon 
the expedient of bribing them to come. At each 
visit to Pembrey he took down with him from 
Birmingham a supply of articles which he thought 
might prove attractive — hats, bonnets, shoes, 
clothing of all kinds. These he distributed as 
rewards to the children who came to the schools. 
A few parents were induced to send by these 
means. When the others found that a solid 


advantage was to be gained, they followed the 
example, and sent their children also. In a few 
weeks, the hitherto empty schools were half-filled. 
Finally, the bait proved irresistible, and the schools 
were full. Having thus tempted the people to 
allow their children to be instructed, Mr. Mason 
set about teaching them to value education for 
its own sake, as well as for the collateral benefits 
it brought in the shape of useful presents. He 
now required the payment of a penny fee for 
each child. This was accepted by the parents ; 
and a judicious system of rewards, united with 
a thoroughly good method of teaching, did the 
rest. The schools grew in favour, were always 
well attended, and it was found possible to raise 
the fees with the approbation of the parents. 
There is no brighter feature in the history of 
industrial enterprise. Not only was an important 
trade created, and a flourishing community called 
into existence, but the moral and intellectual 
interests of the people were cared for as well as 
their material prosperity; and habits of order 
and good conduct were established among a class 
proverbially rude and uncultivated. 

Indirectly Mr. Mason, in conjunction with 
Mr. Elkington, had to do with the development 
of another trade of much importance. This was the 
manufacture of India-rubber rings. These, under 
Macintosh's and other patents, had been made by 


rendering the material tough and elastic by impreg- 
nating it with sulphur, by means of heat. Mr. 
Alexander Parkes discovered a process by which 
the same result could be obtained by immersing the 
material in a solution, without heat ; and this plan, 
besides effecting a saving of time and cost, had the 
further advantage of doing away with the disagree- 
able smell of the sulphur. For some time the 
process was carried out by Messrs. Elkington and 
Mason, at their Brearley Street works ; but 
difficulties arose from the hostile action of other 
patentees, and though the validity of Mr. Parkes's 
patent was established, it was thought better to 
dispose of the trade, which was accordingly trans- 
ferred by sale to the representatives of the original 
India-rubber manufacturers, Messrs. Macintosh 
and Co. 


The Mason Orphanage and Almshouses. 

We have now seen something of the means by 
which Josiah Mason, the humble weaver's boy, had 
in his mature years, come into the possession of 
wealth. Industry, perseverance, and ingenuity laid 
the foundation of his fortune. First the split-ring 
trade acquired from his old friend Mr. Harrison, 
and then the steel pen trade taken up by himself, 
set him on the road to wealth. The simplicity of 
his personal character restricted his wants, and as his 
moderate though not niggardly scale of living 
limited his outlay, the money acquired in the 
trades above mentioned went on accumulating. 
Then, having courage and sagacity, Mr. Mason 
knew how to increase the store with which 
Providence had blessed him, by entering boldly 
upon a new enterprise, in conjunction with Mr. 
Elkington, and afterwards, in the same connection, 
founding the copper-works at Pembrey. No doubt 
he enjoyed a real pleasure in thus making money. 
Men who possess what is known as the business 
character do feel this enjoyment very keenly. If 
the care of their wealth entails upon them increased 
labour, in the extension of their business, or other 
methods of investing their capital, they take very 


kindly to it, and often find the employment not 
only congenial but healthful. It was so with 
Josiah Mason. From childhood to old age, work 
was a necessity to him, and even at a period of life 
when most men would be dozing all day by the 
fire-side, he was one of the steadiest and most 
vigorous workers in the great factory which he 
conducted. That he enjoyed the labour was evident 
to all who had ever seen him at work ; that he 
delighted in the additional means produced by 
increasing trade was manifest to all who knew him. 
But it was not a selfish enjoyment. If it had been, 
this Memoir would never have been written; at 
least by the same hand. If Josiah Mason had been 
one of the ordinary type of money-making men — 
those who create and accumulate wealth for the 
mere pleasure of owning it, or for the power it 
brings, or for the luxuries it commands, or for the 
enrichment of a family, his life would not have been 
worth writing. But he had always in mind higher 
aims than these. We have seen that as a boy he 
sacrificed what was then, to him, a prosperous 
. business, for the sake of promoting the comfort of 
an ailing brother. This was the key-note of his 
character, and the spring of his works of 
beneficence. The wealth he acquired was valued 
by him chiefly as the means of doing good on a 
great scale : he looked upon himself not so much as 
the owner as the steward of it 


The proof of this judgment is to be found in a 
record of what he did with his wealth. He always 
had a singular regard for aged and infirm people 
and for children ; a subtle and tender sympathy 
of health and strength for weakness and feebleness. 
It was natural, therefore, that on beginning to think 
of what he could do for the benefit of his fellow 
creatures, these two classes should present the 
strongest claims. This resulted in the establish- 
ment of a small institution at Erdington — an alms- 
house for aged women, and an orphanage for girls. 
The institution, on its original scale — the fore- 
runner of the magnificent orphanage now existing 
— was begun in the year 1858. The origin of it 
is worth recounting ; and, happily, it is possible to 
record it in Sir Josiah Mason's own words. At the 
writer's request, he furnished the following simple 
and unstudied narrative, which speaks for itself 
more eloquently than any laboured description 
could do : 

" I am asked, ' How was it that you came to 
build an orphanage ? ' It was in this wise. I was 
constantly beset with beggars at home, in the road, 
the streets, and at my different works ; and my 
head being constantly filled with business thoughts 
and plans, I found my hand in my pocket, to get 
rid of intruders, and this at last happened so 
frequently that my pocket needed replenishing 
every morning. At last some cases occurred which 


led me to see that I was doing a foolish thing by 
indiscriminate charity. On one occasion, I re" 
member that I met a blind man, led by another 
man of decent appearance. This person stepped up 
to me, and said, ' Sir, this poor blind man has 
got employment at Liverpool, but has no means 
to take him there/ This appeal cost me half a 
sovereign. Next day, on my way to town, I saw 
the blind man and his companion both so drunk 
that they required a large portion of the road to 
toddle along. Another case. A woman came 
begging, on various pretexts, to one of my works, 
so well disguised each time, and with such a 
plausible story, that I had no idea but that it was 
a different person on each visit. At last she came 
one day with one of her legs bound up, and said 
she had been discharged from the hospital incurable, 
She moved my compassion by describing her suffer- 
ings, with floods of tears. While she was there, 
one of the warehouse-women came to me, and 
said, * Sir, I want to speak to you a minute. This 
woman (she said) has been here before in different 
disguises ; I am sure she is the same/ So I called 
the applicant into a room, and requested the ware- 
house-woman to see the state of her leg. The 
effect was magical. Down went the leg ; and off 
like a shot, went the beggar woman! Another 
woman came to beg some wine for a poor creature 
who, she said, the doctor declared must die, unless 


some stimulant could be given to her. I ordered 
some wine to be supplied. It was received with a 
thousand thanks, and assurances that it would save 
the poor sufferer's life. I had occasion to go out 
directly afterwards; and there was the woman, the 
bottle to her mouth — held there closely until it was 
empty. Another, and a larger class of applicants 
troubled me. These were persons who required 
assistance to extend their trade, so as to put them 
in positions of comfort and independence. I 
advanced a great deal of money in this way ; but 
found by experience that the good it did might be 
equal to ten per cent, of the money advanced ; and 
that much of the remaining ninety per cent, 
was wasted — too often in drink and idleness. 
These examples-a few out of very many- 
put me on thinking that my spare money 
might be put to some better uses. I first thought 
of almshouses for aged women. * Why/ I asked 
myself, * not for men also ? ' but on reflection 
I concluded that they were not very well able 
to manage for themselves in such places. Then 
I thought of the orphans ; and this brought me 
to a stand, to consider what to do. Finally, I 
thought, * Surely it must be some of each' ; and 
having settled it so, I at once drew out a ground 
plan for an almshouse and orphanage combined- 
for twenty women, and from twenty to thirty 
orphans. When the place was built, and occupied, 


the orphans' claims became so numerous and so 
pressing that I enlarged the place to make room 
for fifty girls ; and more than this it would not 

This first experiment, however, did not satisfy 
Mr. Mason. He desired to have an orphanage on 
a much larger scale, with something of a public 
character, and under public management. So he 
writes— " After turning it over in my mind, I 
cama to a wide idea. I said, ' Surely it is possible 
to get a society formed of persons who would give 
a little time and money for the benefit of orphans V 
My own heart said, ' Certainly ; and it will be your 
fault if it is not done.' I then thought how I 
should set about it. I said to my dear wife, ' I am 
now in a fix about this matter ! ' She had 
unbounded faith that I could work out anything 
for myself, but that if I asked advice I should 
surely fail. However, I formed my own plan, that 
I should like it done thus — to invite a number of 
select persons, out of all religious denominations, 
and some who, like myself, belonged to none, and 
to put the project before them, to see what 
could be done. I spoke about it to one who was 
a lover of good deeds: he thought it a grand 
project; but, he said, 'you must begin with the 
top of the Church first/ So off I started to see 
Dr. Miller, who was then Rector of St. Martin's, 
the chief parish in Birmingham." 


Owing to his habit of retirement, and to his 
desire not to be known as a prominent, or even as 
a wealthy man, Mr. Mason was acquainted with 
very few persons outside of his business connec- 
tions. He was not acquainted at all with Dr. 
Miller, who would seem up to that time never to 
have seen him. He has left in writing a graphic 
and characteristic account of the interview, which 
took place at St. Martin's, after service : — 

" I saw the beadle first, and asked, ' Do you 
think I could speak to Dr. Miller this morning V 

" ' Can't tell you/ said the official, ' but he's 

"Then Dr. Miller came in. So I said, 
' Doctor, could I speak to you for a minute ? ' 

" * I am engaged : what is it about ? ' This 
was said a little slcV- 

" I replied, ' It is a private matter I have to 

"On this, with some hesitation — not un- 
natural, perhaps, as I was a stranger — he said, 
'Well, you may follow me,' and so we went into 
the vestry. Taking up the conversation, I said — 

" ' The subject, Doctor, I desire to speak to 
you about is an orphanage.' 

" ' It is a useless waste of time : people are 
called upon for so many things, that they can't 
take up another; and if they would, this could 


never be done. But/ he added, ' what may be your 

:t ' Josiah Mason/ 

:t ' Do you know anything about orphanages ? ' 

'' ' Yes, I have a small one, of about fifty 

lt 'I have not heard of one ; where may it be?' 

" 'At Erdington/ 

:t 'I had not heard of it. Then what do you 

" ' Well/ I said, ' I have many applications 
for the admission of orphans, and it has occurred 
to me that Birmingham should have an orphanage 
on a large scale, and I have thought whether it might 
be possible to get a Committee to work it up — a 
committee of all denominations or of no denomina- 
tions to join in such a useful work. I have spoken 
to one friend on the subject, and he much approved 
of it, and advised me first to speak to you.' 

" ' It would require a great deal of money/ 
the Doctor answered, 'and I don't know persons 
deeply interested enough to give the help required/ 

" I said, c I would make a beginning, Doctor, 
if you thought it would succeed; but I have 
certain ideas about it — namely, that it must not 
be a party orphanage/ 

"The Doctor: 'I don't know that it need 
be a party — what do you belong to V 



" ' Not any, Doctor; I may be called uni- 
versal/ • 
€ What ! not belong to any Christian sect ? ' 
' No, Doctor, I am free/ 

"The Doctor: 'Well, well; but what about 
a donation to start it with — £20 or £50 is not 
much in this case. ' 

" c Plenty of such sums would tell up, 
Doctor ; I would give £100,000 to start it !' 

" c What ! My dear sir ; why, I could em- 
brace you ! ' Then he looked at me up and 
down, feeling, no doubt, as if I were scarcely 
to be considered in my senses. I went on— 

" ' Yes, I would give that sum ; but I have 
one little restriction, and only one of consequence 
to me/ 

" The Doctor: ' What may that be ? ' 

" c That no catechism of any kind be taught 
in the orphanage ; that is the only stipulation I 

" Doctor Miller could not conceal his surprise 
at my proposals. ' But/ he said, 'the amount you 
propose to give ; and I never heard of you/ 

" ' No/ I replied, 'T have always avoided 
being known; but you might know something 
of me if you connect Elkington with my name/ 

" Doctor Miller: € Oh ! I know now ! ' 

"Then it was arranged that a few friends 
should be asked to meet together at Dr. Miller's 


house, and I added, ' But allow me to remind you, 
not all Church ; no restriction whatever on matters 
of religion. ' " 

Shortly after the conversation above re- 
corded, a meeting of clergymen, ministers, and 
others interested in charitable works — about 
twenty people in all — was held at St. Martin's 
Eectory, to consider and arrange the scheme of 
an orphanage on the basis proposed by Mr. Mason. 
The host of the day, Dr. Miller, explained what 
Mr. Mason had proposed, and said that Mr. 
Mason had made the extraordinary offer of 
£100,000 to begin the fund. " I presume/' said 
one gentleman present, "that you mean £1,000 ? " 
Dr. Miller turned to Mr. Mason to corroborate 
his statement. Thus appealed to, Mr. Mason said, 
"Yes, I offer £100,000, as Dr. Miller has stated; 
but upon the conditions I have already made 
known to him." Several meetings were held, 
about ten or twelve, but no plan was finally 
settled. At the last of these assemblies there 
arose an insuperable difficulty, which is described 
by Sir Josiah Mason in the notes already men- 
tioned : — 

" One reverend gentleman said, ' But if you 
will not have the Catechism, Mr. Mason, how 
do you propose to teach the children religion ? 
It is so important that they should be taught 


the Catechism, in order to prepare them for Con- 
firmation. ' 

" For a minute or so, all were dumb ; all eyes 
being fixed on me for an answer. I said ' Eeligion 
had not occurred to my mind, as I was not a 
religious man, according to the views of sect or 
party ; but it had that moment come to my mind 
that I would teach the children the Holy Scrip- 
tures as Timothy was taught ; and that should 
be one of the fundamental rules of the place/ 

" There was again a dead pause. One of the 
reverend gentlemen said that ' he could not sub- 
scribe even a half-sovereign unless the Catechism 
was taught/ Others said ' Mr. Mason's views were 
the right views to take of the matter/ and that 
I had pointed out all that was needful about 
religious teaching. 

" Some discussion then occurred about the 
class of children whom I would receive ; whether 
orphans of the respectable class should be mixed 
up with what was called the gutter class. To 
this I answered that ' I have never thought of 
class. I have been looking only at destitution 
without a friend. I cannot see any difference 
between the classes, both being destitute. No 
doubt the gutter children would require training 
until they were on a level with the rest; but I 
object to class.' 

> » 


The difficulties and differences of opinion 
thus disclosed proved fatal to the project. "The 
Church," writes Sir Josiah, " discovered endless 
hindrances ; she could not do without her Cate- 
chism. This ended the labours of many who 
were willing to give time and money to the 
object. More than one high Churchman came to 
me privately, and spent much time in trying to 
convince me that I took too strong a view of 
the Catechism. Dr. Miller, also, sent for me, and 
had a long interview, to see if he could not 
chime the Catechism into my obstinate head ; but 
he failed. His heart was in the work, and he 
would have given time and help in any way that 
he could ; but Churchmanship was too strong." 

Perhaps, on the whole, it was quite as well 
that this project came to nothing. The establish- 
ment and management of an orphanage on a 
purely unsectarian basis would have been a work 
of great difficulty, especially if, as was proposed, 
representatives of all denominations had been 
united in the management. As Sir Josiah Mason's 
experience proved, it is easier for one person to 
arrange such an establishment in his own way, 
acting independently, than if he were trammelled 
by the control, or even by the advice of a 
committee. Being unwilling to abandon his 
project, Mr. Mason now determined to work it 
out for and by himself. He chose a suitable site 



at Erdington for the building, laid out his plans, 
obtained a design from Mr. Botham, a well-known 
and competent architect in Birmingham, and then, 
in the year 1865, he quietly began the construc- 
tion of the Orphanage, without the least public 
display, and almost without a word. There was 
not indeed so much as a paragraph in a news- 
paper ; a degree of privacy which suited Mr. 
Mason exactly, for it gave him the opportunity 
of working out his own plans without observation. 
For a long time the building went on without 
attracting notice. By degrees the lofty towers 
began to rise above the surrounding landscape, 
and as the site is on high ground, these, and 
the general mass of the building were seen from 
long distances. Then enquiry began to be made 
as to the character and purpose of the great 
edifice. Still Mr. Mason held his peace, quietly 
pursuing the double work of constructing his 
building and of preparing the trust deed of his 
foundation. The former was, to him, a perfect 
labour of love. Day and night, almost, the 
Orphanage occupied his mind; improvements 
of plan continually suggested themselves, new 
arrangements for the health and comfort of the 
children, additions to the external design, to make 
it worthy of its noble purpose. All these, in turn, 
were matured, resolved upon, and executed, with 
promptitude and care, and without thought of cost. 


The object of the Founder was to construct what 
should be as nearly as possible a perfect building — 
strong, durable, ample in accommodation, orna- 
mental in character ; one that should last for 
generations, and be found throughout adequate to 
its designed purpose. This he thoroughly accom- 
plished, for the Orphanage is one of the stateliest, 
best arranged, and most solidly built of the class of 
institutions to which it belongs — an ornament to 
the neighbourhood in which it stands, and a 
worthy memorial of its Founder : as noble a monu- 
ment, indeed, as any man could desire. 

The preparation of the Trust Deed was a 
matter of extreme difficulty, inasmuch as it was 
necessary to combine at once the fixity of the trust, 
in all fundamental particulars, and yet to allow of 
sufficient elasticity to adapt it to the changing 
circumstances of generations to come. The extent 
and the mixed nature of the property to be dealt 
with as the endowment, also constituted no incon- 
siderable difficulty; and the constitution of the 
trust had to be considered with great care, so 
as to ensure sufficient variety, to impress it with a 
permanent and representative character, to secure 
due attention from the trustees themselves, and to 
preserve unimpaired, and as an unalterable con- 
dition, the purely unsectarian nature of the 
foundation. The preparation of the deed, to give 
effect to these views, was commenced by the late 


Mr. Palmer, of Birmingham, who was then, and for 
many years had been, Mr. Mason's confidential 
solicitor, adviser, and personal friend. At Mr. 
Palmer's death, however, the work was very little 
advanced. Fortunately, it was then entrusted 
to Mr. G. J. Johnson, who succeeded to the 
confidential relationship formerly existing between 
Mr. Palmer and Mr. Mason. By this gentleman 
the deed was completed. To satisfy the require- 
ments of the Mortmain Act, it had to be enrolled 
twelve months during the life of the Founder, or 
otherwise it could not take effect. To meet the 
possibility of the Founder's death during this legal 
interval, a will was prepared, devising all the 
estates constituting the Orphanage Endowment to 
Mr. Eobert Lucas Chance, an eminent citizen of 
Birmingham. In case of Mr. Mason's death a 
letter would have been delivered to Mr. Chance 
informing him of the object of the gift, which 
it would have been entirely optional with him 
to carry into effect or not. The gift and the 
letter were only known to two persons, Mr. Mason 
and Mr. Johnson, until the twelve months 
expired, when Mr. Chance had the pleasure 
of being informed of the confidence reposed in 
him. At the completion of the legal year, 
on the 31st of July, 1869, Mr. Mason enjoyed 
the unalloyed pleasure of formally opening his 
noble foundation, by presiding over the first 


meeting of the Trustees. He would permit no 
ceremony. As the work had been quietly, and 
even privately conceived, matured, and executed, 
so the institution was opened without ostentation ; 
and the first detailed information the public had of 
the magnificent scheme — its conception and accom- 
plishment — was contained in the following article, 
which, with Mr. Mason's sanction, the writer 
of this Memoir had the privilege of contributing 
to the Birmingham Daily Post of the 2nd of 
August, 1869 : — 

A great work is best described in the simplest language. 
Therefore, without preface, we say that last Saturday witnessed 
the completion and dedication of one of the noblest works of 
charity in our time, or perhaps in any time — the transfer to the 
appointed trustees of Josiah Mason's Almshouses and Orphan- 
age, at Erdington, near Birmingham. By the desire of the 
Founder, a man of simple character and retiring habits, the 
event was quite unmarked by ceremony. There was just a 
quiet meeting of half a dozen gentlemen, the first trustees, at. 
Mr. Mason's house, at Erdington. A stranger might have 
supposed that some routine business was in course of transac- 
tion — the administration, may be, of a charitable institution of 
an ordinary kind. Yet, in truth, the occasion was one of 
surpassing and unprecedented interest — for at that quiet meet- 
ing a stately building, valued at £60,000, and a more than 
princely endowment, estimated at £200,000, the free and 
wholly unaided gift of one generous and large-hearted man, 
passed from private hands, and became the heritage of the 
orphan arid the poor, for ever. 

We said just now, that a great deed is best described in 
simple terms. This brief record justifies the remark. No 
flourish of rhetoric or artifice of language could set forth the 
grandeur of this donation with half the eloquence of the 
unadorned statement that a single man — a Birmingham manu- 


facturer, known in person to but few of his townsmen, and 
desiring to be known only by his works — has during his life- 
time freely given the magnificent sum of more than a quarter of 
a million for the establishment of a vast educational charity. 
Such uses of wealth at once justify and consecrate wealth. 
Henceforth, the name of Josiah Mason will stand beside that 
of George Peabody — the two being linked together as those of 
men keeping in mind the Divine injunction, "The poor ye 
have always with you ; " and with this remembering themselves 
not as owners but stewards of the means with which Providence 
had endowed them. There is a curious parallelism between the 
two benefactions — each equalling the other in amount, both 
given by men who, beginning very humbly, had grown rich by 
industry and enterprise 'in trade, both directed towards the 
relief of present distress, and the future elevation of the working 
class. The resemblance between the two may be carried yet 
further, for both these great benefactors were born in the same 
year, in the same month, and within a few days of each other — 
Mr. Peabody, on the 18th of February, 1795, and Mr. Mason 
on the 23rd of February, in the same year. Here, however, 
the parallel diverges a little, for while Mr. Peabody's munificent 
gifts to the poor of London were presented to trustees for them 
to arrange a scheme of application, Mr. Mason's noble work is 
wholly his own, down to the smallest detail ; the arrangement 
of the building, the provisions of the trust, and the complete 
organisation of the charity having occupied his mind for years. 
In a word, this noble gift — an honour to humanity, and a glory 
for the town to which the donor belongs — is in all its parts, 
plan, design, detail, and means of sustenance, the work of a 
single man and a single mind. Without asking or receiving 
help of any kind, Mr. Mason gives to trustees, and through 
them to the public, a set of Almshouses for twenty-six women, 
an Orphanage for three hundred children, finished in building 
and arrangement, with plans of management laid down carefully 
throughout and perfected, both charities in full working order, 
and actually at work ; and to crown all, with an endowment in 
land, so well chosen as to promise rapid growth in value with 
each successive year, and so ample as to shut out for ever the 
need of an appeal for other help. This admirable completeness 


appears to us to be one of the noblest features of the plan. Of 
course, only a man of great wealth could have done his work in 
this way ; but many men of wealth, even when embarked in 
such a design, would have stumbled at the enormous cost of it, 
and have shrunk from the sacrifices required to make it 
complete. But Mr. Mason's motto is " Thorough ! " Mean- 
ing that these Almshouses and this Orphanage should be 
" Josiah Mason's Almshouses and Orphanage," he counted the 
cost and paid it, resolving that in all respects, both of payment 
and of plan, the work should be his own. 

Those who have had the pleasure of talking with Mr. 
Mason about his work, are well aware, however, that no 
thought of self, and no thirst for praise, have entered his 
mind. To use his own words, he has done this simply because 
he always felt that he ought to do something for the aged or 
for the children ; and this thought of years gradually shaped 
itself into the double form it has now assumed. It has literally 
been the work of years. So far back as 1858, Mr. Mason 
began an orphanage and a set of almshouses on a small scale, 
intending first to receive twenty-five children, and then ex- 
tending the number to fifty. This building — now converted 
into residences for twenty-six aged women — is situated in the 
village of Erdington, partly in the main road and partly in 
Sheep Street, leading to the railway station on the Sutton 
Coldfield line. No sooner was the smaller orphanage com- 
pleted, than Mr. Mason found that his plans had fallen far 
short of his desires. He resolved to build another orphanage, to 
receive 100 children, and this he thought could be erected 
and endowed for about £100,000. Then, thinking the matter 
over again, the design expanded itself into a building for 200 
children. Even now, however, the large-hearted benevolence 
of the donor was unsatisfied. A third time the plan was 
carefully reconsidered, the result being that Mr. Mason finally 
decided upon erecting a building capable of easily receiving 
300 children — it would hold 500 according to the Privy 
Council measurement — and upon endowing it with landed 
estates sufficient to discharge every claim that could by 
possibility fall upon the trust. This resolution was taken in 
1860, and in the quietest manner, without demonstration of 


any kind, indeed without the knowledge of a single person 
but those immediately concerned, the present magnificent 
building was commenced. Substantially, the edifice was 
finished about two years ago, and Mr. Mason then began to 
gather into it the poor orphans for whom it was designed. 
But other internal work had to be done before the place 
could be said to be completed, and the trust deed — in itself 
an affair of no little magnitude — had to be settled. Even 
when this was accomplished, it was necessary, under the 
Statute of Mortmain, that a year should elapse after the 
signature of the deed, before the munificent gift could take 
legal effect. This period expired on Saturday last, and then, 
at the first meeting of trustees, Mr. Mason was enabled to 
enjoy the satisfaction of seeing his great work complete, and 
finally and for ever dedicated to the public. He is to be 
not less congratulated than envied, for surely no purer or 
nobler pleasure could be within the reach of man. 

Having thus briefly sketched the broad design and cir- 
cumstances of this great work, we proceed to give some 
account of it in detail — taking first the constitution and 
government of the charity ; next the endowment ; and lastly 
describing the building itself. 

The constitution of the Orphanage Trust is set forth in 
an elaborate deed, occupying not less than sixty-three printed 
octavo pages. The first draft of the deed was prepared by the 
late Mr. William Palmer, under the advice and assistance of 
Mr. J. B. Braithwaite, of Lincoln's Inn. On Mr. Palmer's 
death the deed was taken up and completed by Mr. G. J. 
Johnson, of the firm of Tyndall, Johnson, and Tyndall. Half 
the deed is occupied with a description of the numerous 
landed and building estates which from the endowment of 
the charity — the whole, at we have mentioned, being valued 
at ,£200,000, exclusive of the £60,000 spent upon the buildings 
— and then follow the provisions made for the administration 
of this vast endowment. 

The purposes of the trust are two-fold. First, the original 
and smaller building in Sheep Street, Erdington, is to be 
maintained as almshouses for twenty-six women, either widows 
or unmarried, at the discretion of the trustees, and not under 


the age of fifty years. Each inmate is provided with a 
furnished house, coal, gas, and other advantages, and a sum 
of money is allotted to he distributed annually amongst them, 
as the trustees may think proper. The only restriction upon 
this part of the trust is that the number of inmates in the 
almshouses shall never exceed twenty-six, and that no part 
of the funds shall be laid out in the erection of other' alms- 
houses. The trustees have the power of dismissing inmates, 
in case of misconduct ; but during the lifetime of the Founder 
this power, and also a power of general management, both of 
the Almshouses and the Orphanage, is reserved to himself, 
and veiy justly so, for no man would willingly divest him- 
self of the privilege of superintending such an excellent 
work, so long as health and strength remained to him to 
undertake it. 

As regards the major object of the trust — the Orphanage 
— the deed provides that the number of boys and girls to be 
admitted shall be such as the trustees may from time to time 
consider the asylum capable of accommodating, "yet so that 
the number of boys shall never exceed one-half the number 
of girls for the time being inmates therein." Only one con- 
dition is assigned as the qualification for admission — namely, 
that " every child shall be of or under the age of nine years, 
the legitimate child of poor parents, both then dead." Beyond 
this, there is no restriction whatever, whether of locality, 
condition, country, or religious persuasion ; in all these 
respects the charity is as wide-reaching as Benevolence itself, 
and as free as air. It is further provided that in urgent 
and special cases, never to exceed one in ten of the number 
of inmates, the trustees may admit children up to the age of 
twelve years, " provided that no child shall be admitted under 
this clause who is not, in the judgment of the trustees, 
qualified, both by literary attainments and style of conduct 
and behaviour, to take a place at least equal to that taken 
upon the average by the children of his or her own age, for 
the time being in the institution, and who shall not be in other 
respects eligible for admission." Children admitted may 
remain in the Orphanage, if boys, until they are fourteen, 
and if girls until they are eighteen years of age; but, under 



special circumstances, boys may remain twelve months longer, 
and girls willing to enter into service at the Orphanage 
" with the bond fide intention of becoming teachers, nurses, 
or assistants, either in the Orphanage or in other like 
institutions," may remain so long as the trustees may think 
necessary. The trustees are invested with authority to dismiss 
children for disobedience, misconduct, or other reasonable 
cause, and may also, when in their judgment "the relatives 
or friends of any child shall be able to provide for him or 
her, give up such child to such relatives or friend." 

For the care and instruction of the children provision is 
made in the following clauses, which we quote from the deed 
without abridgment, as they clearly and fully express the 
mind of the Founder, both as to the scope of the institution, 
and as to the entirely free and unsectarian character which 
he desires permanently to impress upon it:- 

" The children who are admitted into the Orphanage shall 
be lodged, clothed, fed, maintained, educated, and brought up 
gratuitously at the exclusive cost of the Orphanage income. 

"Proper arrangements shall be made by the trustees for 
the instruction of the children, having due regard to their 
respective ages and capacities in reading, writing, spelling, 
English grammar, arithmetic, geography, and history, and such 
other objects of general and useful knowledge as may be, from 
time to time, directed or authorised by the trustees, subject to 
the condition, which the said Josiah Mason doth hereby declare 
to be fundamental, that no instruction in any language or 
grammar other than the English language and the English 
grammar shall be given to the children in the said Orphanage. 

"And it is hereby declared to be the express wish and 
direction of the Founder, that all the children shall be brought 
up in habits of industry, and that, as far as practicable, the 
girls be instructed in sewing, baking, cooking, washing, 
mangling, and in all ordinary household and domestic duties, 
and in other useful knowledge, with a view to their being 
fitted to become useful members of society in those positions 
in life to which it may please God to call them, and which 
He may give them talents worthily to fulfil. 


"And, under the deep conviction that the fear of 
Almighty God is the beginning of all true wisdom, the said 
Josiah Mason doth hereby declare it to be his special desire 
and direction that the children shall be carefully instructed 
in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and taught to love, 
reverence, and obey the doctrines and precepts therein 
graciously revealed, and, through the Divine blessing upon 
the labours of those engaged in their instruction, the words 
of the Apostle may be addressed with truth to every child 
who shall have been brought up in the Orphanage, ' From a 
child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able 
to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in 
Christ Jesus ; ' provided always, that all the religious instruc- 
tion given in the Orphanage shall be confined to the Holy 
Scriptures in the authorised English version, and to the 
truths therein contained, and that no catechisms, formularies, 
or articles of faith, whether of the United Church of England 
and Ireland, as by law established, or of any other body of 
professing Christians, shall be taught to the children. 

"The trustees shall make such provision as they shall, 
from time to time, think fit for the assembling of the 
children for Divine worship in the institution, having regard, 
as far as practicable, to the earnest desire of the Founder, 
that the children may be trained up as simple and sincere 
followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, without reference to 
sectarian distinctions and prejudices ; and it is hereby 
declared that the trustees shall, out of the income of the 
Orphanage, expend such sum as shall, from time to time, be, 
in their judgment, necessary to provide for each orphan, on 
leaving the asylum, a sufficient outfit in clothes, in the 
discretion of the said trustees, together with a Bible, and the 
said trustees may also pay such sum as an apprentice fee as 
they may, in their discretion, think fit." 

At present there are 150 orphans in the asylum, of 
whom 40 are boys. Their ages range from about two years 
and a half upwards. The establishment consists of a matron, 
Miss Stockwin, a sub-matron (her sister, Miss Ann Stockwin), 
a schoolmaster and drillmaster, the elder girls acting as 
monitresses, a sewing mistress, and an out-door mistress. 


Great stress is laid upon the physical training of the children, 
and upon the industrial education of the girls, who do all the 
housework. The school teaching is explained in the extract 
already given from the trust deed ; and we may add that Mr. 
Mason most earnestly desires to put this part of the school 
under Government inspection — though he does not desire 
Government grants ; but he is hindered by an absurd rule of 
"the Department," which excludes boarding and feeding 
schools from the benefit of inspection. The health of the 
children is placed under the care of two homoeopathic prac- 
titioners — Mr. Mason has for many years been a disciple 
of Hahnemann — namely, Dr. Gibbs Blake and Mr. Wynne 
Thomas, both of Birmingham. The religious services in the 
chapel are conducted at present by the Wesleyan Methodists, 
and provision is made for any residents in the neighbourhood 
who desire to attend, a special gallery, holding two hundred 
persons, being allotted to them. We should mention that 
the friends of the children are allowed to visit them twice a 
year, when, Mr. Mason tells us, the place is "like a fair" 
with the gifts of toys and the numbers of visitors. Friends 
are also permitted to visit at other times, on obtaining a 
written order. 

The administration of the trust, and the management of 
the Orphanage and of the estates belonging to it, are vested in a 
body of trustees, who are always to be laymen and Protestants, 
and any trustee, whether appointed by the Founder or 
afterwards elected, is declared to be incapacitated in case he 
shall cease to be a layman or a Protestant, or in case he should 
become bankrupt or insolvent, or shall cease to reside within 
ten miles of the Orphanage, or shall fail to attend three 
successive general meetings of trustees. Power is also given to 
dismiss a trustee in case he should be " guilty of some grave 
moral delinquency, or'some gross breach of propriety," rendering 
him, in the judgment of his fellows, unfit to be continued as a 
trustee. The trustees are to hold annual meetings, at which 
they are required to appoint a Bailiff (or Chairman) and a 
Secretary, to whom — excepting the case of the Founder — 
salaries may be allowed for their services, out of the trust funds. 
They are also to appoint a Committee of Management. It is 


provided that during his lifetime, Mr. Mason, the Founder, shall 
act as Visitor of the Charity, and, if he pleases, as Bailiff, hut 
without salary, and power is conferred upon him to appoint aud 
dismiss persons employed upon the charity, to vary the trustees, 
and to alter the regulations of the institution at his pleasure, 
always with the restriction that he must act in accordance with 
the general tenour and provisions of the trust deed. 

The present numher of trustees is fixed at seven — namely, 
Mr. Frederick Allen, jeweller ; Mr. William Bach, mercer ; Mr. 
William Fothergill Batho, engineer ; Mr. James Gibbs Blake, 
doctor of medicine ; Mr. Isaac Horton, provision merchant ; Mr. 
Thomas Shaw, bank manager, all of Birmingham ; and Mr. 
John Christopher Yeomans, of Erdington, gentleman. These, 
with the Founder, constitute the first and present Board of 
Management, and in the seven trustees the whole property and 
endowments of the Orphanage are vested. After the death of 
the Founder, the number of trustees is never to be less than ten 
or more than fourteen, of whom seven are always to be 
nominated by the Town Council of Birmingham. With regard 
to this appointment the deed provides that within one week of 
the death of the Founder, the trustees shall give notice thereof 
to the Town Council of Birmingham, and within two months 
from that date the Town Council shall elect seven official 
trustees, who must be laymen and Protestants, and who may be 
either members of the Council or may be chosen from persons 
outside that body. The Council are always to keep up this 
number of seven trustees by election as vacancies arise, and any 
vacancies occurring in the other, or ordinary, trustees are to be 
filled up by the general body. Practically, therefore, the 
Orphanage and its endowments will ultimately constitute a gift 
to the Corporation of Birmingham, out of wealth accumulated 
through the trade and commerce of the town. Finally, the 
deed provides that during the life of the Founder, with his 
consent, or after his decease, at the discretion of the trustees, 
application may be made for a Eoyal Charter, or a special Act 
of Parliament, incorporating the Trust, "under the name or 
style of Josiah Mason's Orphanage and Almshouses Trustees." 

We come next to the endowments of the charity, and 
it is now that the magnitude of Mr. Mason's benefaction 


becomes clearly apparent. The endowments consist wholly 
of land, on such a scale that the recital or description of 
the various properties occupies not less than twenty -five 
closely-printed pages of the deed. A considerable portion of 
the land is in or near the village of Erdington, and it is 
most interesting to note that this part of the gift actually 
includes Mr. Mason's own residence, Norwood House, with 
its grounds and gardens occupying about thirteen acres — 
so that the Founder himself became on Saturday last, and 
will continue to be, a tenant of the orphans whom his muni- 
ficence has endowed. Another part of the endowment consists 
of Tyburn Farm, containing 102 acres, let for 120 years at 
£600 a year. Altogether, in Erdington the endowment 
includes about 220 acres of land, much of it occupied by 
valuable building properties, and all of it likely soon to be 
required for building land, which, from its closeness to Bir- 
mingham, must become of great value. An idea of the worth 
of the property in this neighbourhood may be gathered from 
the fact that a very few years ago Mr. Mason purchased a 
quantity of land (included in the endowment), at little more 
than £120 an acre; and that, desiring to complete an estate 
for the purpose of the Orphanage, he had last year to give, 
for adjoining land, not less than £500 an acre. In addition 
to the Erdington land, the endowment comprises Nonsuch 
Farm, at Northfield, rather more than 80 acres ; Warkworth 
and Headless Cross Farms, and other properties at Fecken- 
ham, 297 acres ; the Chapel Fields estate, at BickenhiJl, 96 
acres ; the manor and priory of Pinley, in the parishes of 
Claverdon, Eowington, and Hatton, 124 acres; Walmley Ash 
Farm, in the parish of Sutton Coldfield, 141 acres; and about 
fifty acres of other lands in Curdworth and Minworth. 
Altogether these properties, the whole of them freehold and 
of an improving kind, and some of them already extremely 
valuable for building purposes, embrace not less than 1,026 
acres. But we have not yet completed the recital of this 
magnificent charity. Besides the 1,026 acres already mentioned 
the endowment includes one acre, three roods and twenty- 
six perches — nearly two acres — of freehold land in Birmingham 
itself, situated in Broad Street, Bridge Street, Great Hampton 


Street, Snow Hill, and Summer Lane. Nearly the whole of 
this property is covered with valuable buildings producing 
large rents, and rapidly increasing in value. Indeed, ouly 
those who are acquainted with the high price of building 
land in the heart of Birmingham can form an idea of the 
immediate value and probable resources of such a property 
as this. There are yet, however, some additions to be made 
before we can complete the rent-roll of Josiah Mason's 
Orphanage. Two houses and shops in New Street, facing 
Worcester Street — the very best part of the town — are included 
in the endowment ; and the list is closed by the newly-erected 
property in High Street, facing the Market Hall, and running 
back to Moor Street, which alone is let on a lease for 120 
years, at the annual rental of £1,509. These two last-named 
properties, it should be mentioned, are additional to the two 
acres of Birmingham land. Taken together they probably raise 
the land in Birmingham to a total of two acres and a half. Of 
the income yielded by the endowments, we are not in position 
to speak with certainty. The total value, as we have mentioned, 
is not less than £200,000, and it is probable that the income 
is very little, if at all, below £10,000. In a few years, as the 
properties improve, and the land near Birmingham comes into 
use for building, this income will most likely be doubled in 
amount ; and with this expectation provision is made in the 
trust deed for the acquisition of other properties out of the 
surplus funds, and for the erection of other charitable institu- 
tions within scope of the trust. 

The reader who has followed this narrative so far will 
now desire to learn something of the noble building which, 
with its inmates, forms, so to speak, the centre and kernel 
of the trust ; and upon which the Founder has lavished years 
of patient labour — always close and onerous, demanding in- 
cessant thought and unremitting attention, but sweetened from 
first to last by the sense of doing good, and animated by 
the desire that his work should be made as perfect as human 
hands could make it. The Orphanage stands fronting to Bell 
Lane, a little way behind the Birmingham and Lichfield 
turnpike road, at Erdington. It occupies, with play-grounds, 
plantations, garden ground, and fields, about thirteen acres 


of land, lying high upon a gravelly soil, well open on all sides, 
and commanding fine views of the surrounding country, from 
which the great central tower, 200 feet high, may be seen 
for many miles. The building, which is bold and massive 
in general form, is skilfully broken up in detail, so as to 
relieve it from any traces of the baldness which often 
characterises extensive frontages involving much repetition 
of forms. The character of the design is Lombardic, varied 
so as to suit modern requirements. The plan is that of an 
irregular oblong, presenting a length of 207 feet at the 
north-west or entrance front in Bell Lane ; 190 feet to the 
north-east or play-ground front ; 300 feet to the east or garden 
side; and 270 feet to the west side, where the out-offices 
are placed. This vast mass, which is divided into three 
storeys, well marked out, is pierced by lines of semi-circular 
headed windows, with enriched columns or shafts and heads, 
each window being flanked by shallow buttresses, and each 
front being finished with carved mouldings or string-courses 
in stone. The gabled ends of the building project slightly, 
and in these the windows (crowned with sunk arches, pierced 
with enriched rose windows) are somewhat more boldly 
treated than the rest, and with excellent effect. Each gable 
is finished with a colossal figure of an angel standing with 
folded wings, as if watching over the happiness of the children 
below. These figures and the numerous other carved enrich- 
ments (most of them in some way symbolical of charity or of 
infancy) are admirably executed. The long lines of roof are 
picturesquely broken by dormer windows, gabled, and of large 
size, to give light to the sleeping rooms ; and over the roofs 
three boldly designed towers rise to irregular heights. The 
principal tower, near the centre of the building, is 200 feet 
high, divided into three stages, and surmounted with a high- 
pitched roof, crested with an open metal railing, and bearing 
a lofty flag-staff. The enclosed centre of this structure is used 
as a shaft to carry off the heated air from the building, but by a 
series of staircases, provision is made for ascending to the 
gallery at the top. Over the entrance in Bell Lane is another 
tower, of about 120 feet high, covered with a high-pitched roof; 
and a third tower, 110 feet high, serves as a chimney-shaft, 


into which all the smoke-flues of the building are made to 
discharge their contents, there being otherwise neither fire- 
place nor chimney throughout the edifice, but all the heating 
being done by pipes containing hot water, and the cooking, 
washing, and drying by steam. Two features of the elevation 
require to be noticed. One is an exquisite little porch, 
leading to an arcade through which access is obtained to the 
main entrance corridor. The other is a massive rusticated 
arcade, supporting the play-ground front, and itself forming 
a covered play-ground 174 feet long by 25 feet wide. The 
materials of the building are bricks (of which about three 
millions were used, all of them made upon the Orphanage land), 
with massive dressings and enrichments of Tower Hill stone 
for the basement, and Derbyshire and Shrewsbury stone for 
the mouldings, string-courses, buttresses, and windows. The 
elevation and main plans were designed by Mr. J. E. Botham, 
architect, of Birmingham, to whom they do very great credit ; 
but owing to circumstances of a private nature, Mr. Botham 
retired at an early period from the superintendence of the 
work, and the building was then conducted, and the whole 
of the interior arrangements were designed and carried out 
by Mr. Mason himself, the result of his ingenuity and skill 
being apparent in every part, even in the minutest detail. 
The cost of the building, as we have already mentioned, was 
about £60,000, as nearly as can be ascertained; for Mr. 
Mason confesses that when the clerk of the works reported 
an expenditure of £50,000, he grew somewhat careless about 
keeping accounts, although a good deal of the interior work, 
all the furnishing, and the laying out of the grounds, still 
remained to be done. 

The plan of the interior arrangements is very simple. 
Access is gained from Bell Lane by the porch already noted, 
which leads to a lofty corridor, 155 feet by 9. At the 
end of this, and turning at a right angle to it, is a second 
corridor, 121 feet by 6, giving access to offices and staircases, 
and to various rooms in the south-east front. On the left- 
hand side of the main corridor is a large and handsome 
chapel, plainly fitted up with open benches. Beyond is a 
range of windows, looking into an enclosed courtyard, and 



commanding a picturesque view of a further court and of the 
main tower. On the opposite, or right-hand side of the 
corridor, is a room (37 by 30) for visitors to the children, a 
board-room for the trustees, and other departments, including 
the private room of the matron. At the end of the corridor 
are a sewing room (20 by 30) and a music and drill room 
(30 by 37). Turning along the small corridor, we come to a 
dining room for the matron and teachers, a servants' hall, an 
infants' dining room (for there are a good many very little 
ones in the Orphanage), and then the main dining hall, 70 
feet by 23 feet, fitted with massive tables, and with a separate 
seat for each child. Near this apartment are the girls' cloak 
room, pantries, store-rooms, and other offices, all of ample 
size and most conveniently arranged and fitted. Opposite 
the door of the dining hall is the kitchen, a superb room, 62 
feet by 30, well lighted, lofty in proportion, and as clean as 
a pink. All the cooking, it should be noted, is done by 
steam, on a most ingenious plan devised by Mr. Mason him- 
self, especially for the Orphanage. Underneath, in the base- 
ment, is the oven for baking bread, of which, we need scarcely 
say, a large supply is wanted. This oven is also of Mr. 
Mason's invention, and is so constructed as with one firing to 
retain its heat for several days together, to the great economy 
of fuel. Opposite the kitchen, but divided from it by an open 
passage (so that no smell can escape) is the laundry (38 by 
30), fitted with all kinds of labour-saving contrivances; and 
having a series of very skilfully contrived steam drying 
closets. The whole of the steam required for these purposes, 
and the hot water for warming the entire building, through 
about 1,000 feet of 4-inch piping, is supplied by one small 
boiler, with which is connected an engine for pumpiiig water, 
hot and cold, to each floor of the building. Underneath the 
basement is a rain-water cistern, 6 feet deep, and measuring 
62 feet by 13 feet. 

Ascending by a broad and handsome staircase to the 
first floor, we find the general arrangement of plan similar 
to that on the ground floor — the corridors corresponding, and 
the rooms leading out of them to the several parts of the 
building. Amongst the principal are play-rooms for boys 


and girls — the former 94 feet by 16, and the latter 37 feet 
by 30 ; a school-room 70 feet by 23 ; three class-rooms, 
each 23 feet by 18 ; and thirteen small rooms allotted to 
various purposes. In addition to these are separate lavatories 
for boys and girls, each 63 feet by 15, and so arranged that 
each child has its own washing place, towel, and other 
appliances. Adjoining these is the wardrobe, fitted with 
separate hooks and places for the clothes of each child ; 
and the bath-room, a lofty apartment, 38 feet by 30, supplied 
with an ample number of baths, and with hot water, con- 
tained in three iron cisterns, cylinder-shaped, and measuring 
10 feet high, by 2 feet 6 inches diameter. Cold water is 
obtained from a tank 53 feet long by 4 feet wide and 2 deep. 
An important feature of the arrangements on this floor is 
the infirmary, which occupies a space in the entrance 
front — 47 feet by 30 feet — is capable of being shut off 
from the rest of the building, and has special means of 
heating and ventilation. Close to the infirmary is a con- 
valescent-room, 66 feet by 20 feet, and having a very pleasant 
look-out, enough in itself to bring the sick children round to 
renewed health. The dormitories are situated upon the second 
floor, the whole of which is occupied by them. There are 
three for boys, the largest measuring 72 feet by 30, and the 
smaller ones each 23 by 18. For girls there are six dormi- 
tories, measuring 94 feet by 34 — the largest — down to 20 feet 
by 15 feet, the smallest. All these rooms are very lofty and 
well ventilated. The two divisions are so arranged as to be 
capable of complete separation from each other; and in each 
division there are sleeping-rooms for teachers or attendants, 
who have charge of the children during the night. Each child 
has a separate bed, and all the appointments are kept beauti- 
fully clean. 

With other details we need not trouble the reader, contenting 
ourselves with saying generally that the Orphanage throughout 
is wonderfully well arranged and admirably built — strong, 
sound, and solid, with ornament enough to make it attractive, 
yet with use and comfort never sacrificed to ornament. The 
ventilation, again, is perfect, every room is fresh and sweet, and 
an abundant supply of pure warm air passes constantly through 


all parts of the house. This, and numberless other arrange- 
ments, as we have said, are due to Mr. Mason himself, who is 
full of mechanical skill and practical scientific knowledge. One 
great difficulty of such institutions he appears to have solved — 
the latrines. At first water-closets were used, but these became 
offensive, and the whole of them were cleared away, their places 
being supplied by a system of dry closets, depositing their 
contents in a large vault near the engine-house, and closed 
externally with iron doors. Over the surface of the vault a 
quantity of fine ashes from the boiler fire are spread twice daily, 
in a thin layer, and the contents of the vault are thus perfectly 
deodorised, besides being rendered most valuable as manure. 
The waste water from the house is, of course, allowed to flow 
direct into the drains. When we saw the place, in one of the 
hottest days of July, not the faintest odour was perceptible. 

Before closing this notice, we must say that there is one 
point — and this is a most important one — which the fullest 
description would fail to bring out. It is the tender thought- 
fulness and loving care manifested in all respects for the comfort 
and happiness of the children. If Mr. Mason had been con- 
triving a house for children of his own, he could not have 
studied the wants and habits of the little ones more closely, or 
thought out each detail with greater pains than he has done for 
these poor orphans. Abundant evidence of this appeals to the 
visitor, however careless he may be. Not only may the pro- 
vision of separate beds and washing appliances be cited in proof 
of our remark, but there are also the arrangements of the bath- 
room, in which the physical comfort of the very little ones is 
especially studied, and the covered play-ground with its triple 
columns, erected not for the requirements of strength, but with 
a particular eye to the pastime of hide-and-seek. The same 
thoughtfulness is apparent in the flowers arranged along the 
main corridor, in the separate seats in the dining hall, in the 
carefully sloped backs of the chapel benches, in the provision of 
musical instruments, and in many other ways readily to be 
noted by those who love children and know their ways. Then, 
again, the little ones have their infantine toys, the bigger ones 
amusements suited to maturer age, and for sturdy lads and lasses 
there are swings and gymnastic apparatus in the ample open 


play-ground, looking out freshly into the fields. One thing 
more is too pleasant to be omitted — namely, that the Founder 
knows all the children in the noble home he has provided, that 
he is known and loved by them, that the infants trot up to 
him and put their tiny hands in his, that the elder ones 
brighten at his approach, that he has a kindly word and 
fatherly look for one and all, and last, but not least, that his 
own benevolent spirit seems to have passed into the minds of 
the attendants from highest to lowest, making the whole place 
what the Founder desires it to be, a Home for those who are 
homeless, a Family circle for those who have lost their natural 
protectors. May God bless such a work as this, and bless, too, 
the man who has done it ! 

The Orphanage at Erdington is connected, both 
by locality, and by its trust deed, with another 
charitable institution founded by Sir Josiah Mason. 
This is the Almshouses for Aged Women, already 
mentioned as having been the site of the original 
orphanage. The almshouses are situated in Bell 
Lane, to which the principal front is presented, 
with another frontage to the main road leading 
from Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield. The build- 
ing, which is large and imposing in appearance, is 
of Gothic design : it consists of two gabled wings, 
with a central tower, and is screened along the 
principal front by a low wall, pierced with a 
handsome arched gateway. This gives entrance to 
a courtyard, from which we enter the building. 
Access is first obtained to the central hall, a finely- 
proportioned room 40 feet by 23 feet 6 inches, 
rising to a height of 40 feet at the centre of the 
open timber roof. It is lighted by a large window 


over the doorway, and by two lancet windows on 
each, side, giving views along the corridors extend- 
ing from one end of the building to the other. 
From these corridors — one on the ground floor and 
one upon the upper floor — access is obtained to the 
rooms allotted to the inmates of the almshouses. 
In the old almshouses there were twenty sets of 
rooms ; in the building, as now arranged, there are 
thirty-one. Each inmate has her separate room, 
which serves for living and sleeping, and in each 
room there is a closet for stores, with other 
necessary appliances. The rooms are furnished in 
a comfortable manner out of the funds of the trust, 
and allowances are made for a matron and sub- 
matron, and to other inmates for doing the domestic 
work of the establishment. The rooms are about 
14 feet by 11, and are 9 feet high. In conjunction 
with the almshouses is a home for servants who 
have been sent out from the Orphanage, and who 
may be temporarily disabled, or may need a place 
of residence while seeking new situations. Provi- 
sion is made for twelve persons in this department. 
There is a common sitting-room, a kitchen, store- 
rooms for boxes, &c, and a large, well-lighted, and 
thoroughly- ventilated dormitory. The land at the 
back of the almshouses is laid out as a pleasant 
little garden. 


The Mason Science College. 

We now come to the third, and, in its probable 
results, the greatest of Sir Josiah Mason's founda- 
tions — the Science College, in Edmund Street, 
Birmingham, of which, on the 23rd of February, 
1875, the Founder laid the first stone, on the 
occasion of his eightieth birthday, in the presence of 
the Trustees and a number of gentlemen represent- 
ing the Corporation of Birmingham and the 
principal societies and public bodies concerned in 
the promotion of literature, science, and art, and in 
conducting the higher education of the town. The 
attendance included the heads of the Corporation, 
representatives of the Magistrates, the Midland 
Institute, the Queen's College, the Free Grammar 
School, the Corporation Free Libraries, the Birming- 
ham Library (founded nearly a century ago by Dr. 
Priestley), the School Board, the Royal Society of 
Artists, the Fellows of the Royal Society resident 
in Birmingham, and many other leading citizens. 
To these were added the Members of Parliament 
for the Borough, and it was a matter of gratification 
to Sir Josiah Mason that Mr. Bright came specially 
to signify by his presence the interest he felt in the 


proceedings, and his appreciation of the generous 
and thoughtful liberality of the Founder of the 

The ceremonial of the day, in accordance with 
the Founders express desire, and in harmony with 
his personal character, was made as brief and 
simple as possible. Owing to the severe weather — 
heavy snow, followed by sharp frost — only a few 
minutes were spent on the site of the College, and 
then the company adjourned to the Queen's Hotel, 
where the Deputy-Mayor, Mr. Biggs (the Mayor, 
Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, being absent through 
domestic affliction), presented to Sir Josiah Mason 
the following address of congratulation upon his 
birthday, and of thanks for the munificent gift he 
had, in the foundation of his College, presented to 
the town : — 

"Sir, — As representing the Corporation, the Magistrates, 
and the leading scientific, literary, artistic, and educational 
institutions of Birmingham, we beg leave to offer to you, on 
our own behalf, and in the name of the town, our hearty 
congratulations upon the formal commencement of the great 
work you have undertaken — that of erecting and endowing a 
Scientific College for the general benefit of Birmingham and 
the Midland district. 

"Your name is already honourably identified with an 
unexampled work of thoughtful and munificent charity — the 
establishment of your Orphanage and Almshouses at Erdington* 
which has earned for you the gratitude of the widow and the 
orphan, and the just approbation of the public, not of this 
district alone, but of the country at large. In that foundation, 
you showed how, by a generous mind, Wealth may be con- 
secrated by its application to the noblest uses of Charity. In 


your present foundation of this College, you give an equally 
noble example of the recognition of public duty, by devoting 
another large portion of your means to the diffusion of higher 
education, and the consequent elevation, moral, intellectual, 
and social, of your fellow citizens. 

"In both the Orphanage and the College you enjoy the 
rare felicity of witnessing, in your own lifetime, the accomplish- 
ment of designs not less important in their results than bene- 
ficial in their character and costly in their execution. For the 
benefit of others, in the true spirit of self-sacrifice, you divest 
yourself of wealth acquired by honourable industry and far- 
sighted enterprise ; but in doing so, you gain the advantage of 
directing the channels in which it shall flow, and the happiness 
of maturing the means which may enable others, in their turn, 
to emulate your example while they bless your name. 

" It is not only' the magnitude of your benefactions which 
we desire thus publicly to acknowledge, nor the admirable 
purposes to which they are devoted, but also the wisdom of 
the trusts under which they are administered. In both the 
Orphanage and the College you have recognised the principle 
of public management, by associating the Corporation of the 
Borough, as the representatives of the people, with the govern- 
ing bodies of your institutions. You have ordered the method 
of administration on the most liberal scale — providing that the 
benefits of both Orphanage and College shall be open to all, 
without distinction of sex or restriction of class, birthplace, or 
creed. You have also, in regard to the College, made special 
provision that the instruction to be given within its walls shall 
not be stereotyped in range or character, by the will of the 
Founder, but shall be revised at specified intervals, so as to 
adapt it to the growing requirements and changing circumstances 
of future times. While providing for perpetuity, you have thus 
ensured the renewal and development of healthy life. 

"To the endowments already bestowed by your muni- 
ficence, you now propose to add the erection of a stately 
building, worthy of your great design ; and it is a happy 
circumstance that the day selected for the laying of the founda- 
tion stone is that upon which you complete the eightieth year of 
a useful, laborious, and honourable life. We congratulate you 



most heartily upon such a method of celebrating your birthday. 
In the name of Birmingham, we thank you sincerely and gratefully 
for what you have done for its citizens ; and we earnestly pray 
that your life may be prolonged to witness the completion of 
the work you have begun to-day, and to watch over the develop- 
ment of the noble institutions established by your generosity, 
and which will imperishably record your name." 

This address received the signatures of the 
gentlemen present, as representing the various 
institutions above mentioned. 

To this address Sir Josiah Mason made the 
following reply, which, at his request, was read 
for him by Mr. Bunce, one of the College 
Trustees :— 

"Gentlemen, — I have to thank you most sincerely for 
your presence here to-day, to witness the laying of the founda- 
tion stone of my Scientific College, and I have to thank you, 
also, for the kind address which has just been read, and for 
its full and generous recognition of my labours. 

"It is, indeed, a matter of deep satisfaction to me that 
at my advanced age I am still in possession of sufficient health 
and strength to allow me to take this personal share in com- 
mencing the work I have so much at heart ; it fills my mind 
with gratitude to the Giver of all Good, and if it should 
please Him to allow me to see the completion of the building 
which we have just begun, I shall be content to depart, with 
the confident belief that others, rightly appreciating my design, 
will carry out the scheme of the College in the spirit in which 
I have been permitted to begin it. This work, gentlemen, has 
been long in my mind, for I have always felt the importance of 
providing enlarged means of scientific instruction, on the scale 
required by the necessities of this town and district, and upon 
terms which render it easily available by persons of all classes, 
even the very humblest. The experience of my own life has 
long since satisfied me on this point. When I was a young man 
— it is so long ago that while still living in this generation I 


can recall the memories of a time long past — there were no 
means of scientific teaching open to the artisan classes of our 
manufacturing towns ; and those who, like myself, would 
gladly have benefitted by them were compelled to plod 
their weary way, under disadvantages and through difficulties 
of which our young men of this day can form no adequate idea. 
Schools at that time were few and poor, there were no institu- 
tions of popular teaching, no evening classes to which youths 
might go after their day's work was ended. Whatever I learned 
I had to teach myself, in the intervals of laborious and pre- 
carious occupations, first at Kidderminster, my birthplace, and 
later in Birmingham, the home of my adoption, and the place 
where sixty years of my life have been spent. At Kidder- 
minster, as a youth, I worked at a variety of trades — baking, 
shopkeeping, carpet weaving, and others. When I came to 
Birmingham, in my twentieth year, I was first connected with 
one of the then staple trades of the town, the gilt toy making, 
and it was not until after ten years of hard work and heavy 
disappointment, that I found the position that Providence had 
destined me. 

"At thirty years of age, with twenty pounds of savings as 
my whole fortune, I was brought into association with one of the 
most honourable, industrious, and ingenious of men, Mr. Samuel 
Harrison, the inventor of split-rings, whom I served for a time, 
and to whose business, on his retirement, I succeeded. Mr. 
Harrison was no common man; he was a friend of Dr. Priestley > 
whom he assisted in many of his philosophical experiments, 
and for whom, I may mention, as a matter of interesting 
local history, he made the first steel pen that ever was made 
in Birmingham. To me he was a dear and good friend, whose 
memory I have never ceased to cherish with continual affection. 
To the business I received from him I afterwards added the 
trade of steel pen making, which I have now followed for 
more than forty-seven years, first as the maker of the well- 
known Perryian pens, and later in my own name, until I 
have developed the works into the largest pen factory in the 
world — though I ought to say that the building in which they 
are now conducted no longer belongs to me, but has been 
conveyed to the Trustees of this College, as part of their 


endowment, so that I am now the tenant of my own foundation. 
This business and that of the split-ring making were my sole 
occupations until 1840, when accident brought me in close 
relations with my late valued friend and partner, Mr. G. R. 
Elkington, who was then applying the great discovery of 
electro-deposition, and through my association with him in this 
undertaking I may claim a share in the creation of a form of 
scientific industry which has so largely enriched the town of 
Birmingham, and increased its fame throughout the world. To 
this we afterwards added the establishment of copper-works 
in South Wales, Since the death of my friend Mr. Elkington, 
I have restricted myself to my original work as a penmaker and 
split-ring maker, with an occasional deviation into other employ- 
ments in which science has been brought to the aid of industry. 
" I mention these facts to show you how the means with 
which God has blessed me have been acquired, and to show, 
also, how natural it is that I should wish to devote some por- 
tion of those means to assist in promoting scientific teaching to 
advance the varied forms of scientific industry, with which, 
throughout my Birmingham life, I have been so closely con- 
nected. But before I could take in hand the foundation of this 
College I had another work to do. I had always had a great 
desire to do some deed of love for the poor and helpless ; and, 
therefore, my first care was to make provision for the aged and 
the orphans. This I was enabled to do by founding the 
orphanage and almshouses at Erdington ; and this being done, 
I was at liberty to turn my attention to the project of the 
College. There were many difficulties to be overcome. Wil- 
lingness to give money will do much, but it will not do 
everything. The site, for example, was a great hindrance; 
many places were thought of and put aside ; others were sought 
for, and could not be obtained. At last, by the willing co- 
operation of my friend, Mr. Philip Henry Muntz, M.P., I was 
enabled to obtain the land upon which we are now standing, 
though long negotiations were necessary before a sufficient 
extent could be secured. These delays, however, did not really 
do any harm to the scheme ; indeed, they afforded time for the 
proper consideration of the plan of the College, and the 
preparation of a deed of foundation of a nature to give full 


effect to my wishes. For this I must acknowledge my great 
obligations to my friend and adviser, Mr. G. J. Johnson, and to 
other gentlemen, some of whom are included in the number of 
my Trustees. At last, all difficulties being overcome, and the 
plans for the College being settled, we are assembled to witness 
the commencement of the building which I have undertaken to 
erect as the future home of the foundation, and before long I 
hope to see the first body of students collected within its walls. 
" The scheme of the College, as most of you know, is a 
large one, and I have sought to make it as liberal as possible, in 
the character and extent of the teaching, the system of manage- 
ment, and the mode and the terms of admission. Whatever is 
necessary for the improvement of scientific industry, and for 
the cultivation of Art, especially as applied to manufactures, 
the Trustees will be able to teach ; they may also, by a provi- 
sion subsequent to the original deed, afford facilities for medical 
instruction ; and, as has been mentioned in the address read by 
the Deputy-Mayor, they are authorised, and indeed enjoined, to 
revise the scheme of instruction from time to time, so as to. 
adapt it to the requirements of the district in future years, as 
well as at the present time. It is not my desire to set up an 
institution in rivalry of any other now existing ; but to provide 
the means of carrying further and completing the teaching now 
given in other scientific institutions, and in the evening classes 
now so numerous in the town and its neighbourhood, and 
especially in connection with the Midland Institute, which has 
already conferred so much benefit upon large numbers of 
students, and which I am glad to see represented here to-day. 
My wish is, in short, to give all classes in Birmingham, in 
Kidderminster, and in the district generally, the means of 
carrying on, in the capital of the Midland district, their 
scientific studies as completely and thoroughly as they can be 
prosecuted in the great science schools of this country and the 
Continent, for I am persuaded that in this way alone — by the 
acquirement of sound, extensive, and practical scientific know- 
ledge — can England hope to maintain her position as the manu- 
facturing centre of the world. I have great, and I believe 
well-founded hope for the future of this foundation. I look 
forward to its class rooms and lecture halls being filled with a 


succession of earnest and intelligent students, willing not only 
to learn all that can be taught, but in their turn to communicate 
their knowledge to others, and to apply it to useful purposes 
for the benefit of the community. It is in this expectation that 
I have done my part, thankful to God that He has given me 
the means and the will to do it ; hoping that from this place 
many original and beneficial discoveries may proceed ; trusting 
that I, who have never been blessed with children of my own, 
raay y e ^ i n these students, leave behind me an intelligent, 
earnest, industrious, and truth-loving and truth-seeking progeny 
for generations to come." 

The description of his design thus given by 
the Founder is justified by the provisions of 
the Deed of Foundation. The plan of the 
College first began to assume shape about 1868. 
Sir Josiah Mason's original idea was to purchase 
the building now occupied by the Queen's College 
in Paradise Street, and to adapt it to his enlarged 
scheme of scientific instruction. This, however, 
from legal and other reasons, proved to be im- 
practicable, and then an idea was formed of 
grafting the College upon the Midland Institute. 
But this would have necessitated a considerable 
change in the functions and government of the 
Institute, and the obtaining of a new Act of Parlia- 
ment to vary the Institute Act ; besides which it 
was felt that the two institutions would form the 
complement of each other, and had therefore better 
be kept separate, as affording the best prospect of 
good management and efficient working for each 
of them. Consequently, Sir Josiah Mason and his 


advisers came to the conclusion that an inde 
pendent foundation, under the name of the Mason 
Science College, was the best thing for the town ; 
and it was not unnaturally felt that such a 
foundation would also, in the most permanent and 
honourable manner, preserve the name and memory 
of the Founder. This being resolved upon, there 
were three points of importance to be considered — 
the scheme of the College ; the site ; and the 
preparation of the Foundation Deed. The scheme 
of instruction required long and serious considera- 
tion, and in arranging it, so as to meet the 
requirements of the town and district in the 
completest manner, Sir Josiah Mason sought the 
advice of several persons who had given much 
thought to the subject, and who had acquired 
experience in the conduct of similar undertakings 
in Birmingham, and in the manufactures of the 
town. Foremost amongst these, as the Founder 
mentioned in the statement above quoted, was 
his friend and legal adviser, Mr. G. J. Johnson, 
formerly Professor of Law in Queen's College, 
Birmingham. Mr. George Shaw, formerly Pro- 
fessor of Chemistry in Queen's College, assisted 
greatly in drawing up the scheme of instruction, 
and the writer of this Memoir was likewise per- 
mitted to take some share in the work. It was 
not, however, until the close of the year 1870 
that the scheme could be finally settled, and the 


Deed prepared — this important part of the matter 
being undertaken by Mr. Johnson, with the co- 
operation of Mr. J. B. Braithwaite, of Lincoln's 
Inn. At; last, on the 12th of December, 1870, the 
Foundation Deed was formally executed. It was 
made between " Josiah Mason, of Norwood House, 
Erdington, in the parish of Aston, near Birming- 
ham, manufacturer, of the first or one part, and 
James Gibbs Blake, doctor of medicine, and George 
James Johnson, attorney and solicitor, both of 
Birmingham aforesaid, of the second or other 
part ; " and it was witnessed by " W. C. Aitken, 
Mayfield House, Heathfield Eoad, Handsworth, 
manager of metal works, and John Thackray 
Bunce, 109, Bristol Road, Birmingham, newspaper 
editor/' The Deed was enrolled in Chancery on 
the 15th of December; and, in compliance with 
the Statutes of Mortmain, in Chancery it had to 
remain for twelve months, it being necessary that 
to give effect to his design, the Deed should be 
enrolled for twelve months during the lifetime of the 
Founder. In order to secure the fulfilment of the 
Founder's intention, in the event of his death 
before the Deed had acquired legal force, Sir Josiah 
Mason repeated the plan which had been adopted 
in reference to the Orphanage. But as Mr. Chance 
had been informed of the Orphanage gift, it was 
necessary to select some other gentleman in order 
to prevent suspicion of any previous understanding 


between Sir Josiah Mason and the devisee, which 
at law would have created a trust and nullified 
the gift. Sir Josiah Mason therefore executed a 
will bequeathing the whole of the designed endow- 
ments of the College to Mr. Thomas Avery, the 
present Mayor of Birmingham, and with the will 
a letter was deposited explaining the testator's 
wishes. The twelve months having elapsed, the 
Deed became legally binding, and Dr. Blake and 
Mr. Johnson were thus constituted the first 
Trustees of the Scientific College, and as such, 
held in trust the various properties conveyed to 
them by the Founder, for the purposes of the 
College. Another delay of some months was 
caused by difficulties connected with the site of 
the building. The Founder had purchased some 
land in Edmund Street, Birmingham, close to 
the Town Hall, the Free Libraries, and the 
Midland Institute, and he desired to erect his 
College in this central position. But the site was 
not large enough, and it was found very difficult 
to obtain sufficient land. An endeavour was made 
to purchase the ground at the corner of Edmund 
Street and Congreve Street, which would have 
given ample space in a commanding position, but 
this effort proved unsuccessful, and therefore 
attention was directed towards acquiring the 
land stretching through from Edmund Street to 
Great Charles Street. The property was valuable, 



the interests of freeholders, lessees, and sub-tenants 
were numerous and complicated, and consequently 
progress was necessarily slow. By the co-operation 
of Mr. P. H. Muntz, M.P., one of the principal 
owners — who met the Founder in a most willing 
and liberal spirit — an arrangement was finally 
completed ; and thus, with subsequent additions, 
a sufficient area of land was obtained — about an 
acre in the whole, with frontages to Edmund 
Street and to Great Charles Street, and the question 
of the site was decided. 

The next step was to fill up the body of 
Trustees to the required number of six, in order 
that the work of the Foundation might be regu- 
larly carried on. This was done in September, 
1872, when the Founder nominated as Trustees 
the following gentlemen — namely, Dr. Blake and 
Mr. G. J. Johnson, the original Trustees; Mr. 
William Costen Aitken, Mr. John Thackray 
Bunce, Dr. Thomas Pretious Heslop, and Mr. 
George Shaw. The first meeting of the Trustees 
was held on the 23rd of February, 1873 — the 
Founder's seventy-eighth birthday — when the 
Deed was signed by the Trustees in the picture 
gallery of his house at Erdington. 

Questions of great importance now arose 
as regards the site, and these, including a fresh 
endeavour to extend it to Congreve Street, oc- 
cupied a long time. It was not until this 


matter was decided that the plans of the College 
could be laid out. When this part of the work 
was begun by a committee of the Trustees, consist- 
ing of Dr. Blake, Dr. Heslop, Mr. Shaw, and Mr. 
Aitken, it was found necessary to proceed with 
extreme care, so as to adapt the building not only 
to present use, but to the future requirements of 
the foundation. In order that full advantage 
might be taken of the experience of existing 
institutions, Mr. J. A. Cossins, the architect 
selected by the Founder, was requested to visit the 
principal science colleges of this country and the 
Continent, before preparing his plans and the 
information thus acquired, both in England and in 
Germany, proved of the highest value in laying out 
the arrangement of the building ; the desire of the 
Founder and of the Trustees being that Josiah 
Mason's College should, as regards completeness as 
well as capacity, stand in the first rank of such 
institutions. The plans thus carefully prepared 
and matured, were finally approved by the 
Founder, and by the whole body of Trustees, early 
in the autumn of 1874, when the work of clearing 
the site and of putting in the foundations was at 
once begun. Owing to the extent of the intended 
building, and to the circumstance of the ground 
being covered with houses, this was an operation of 
considerable difficulty, and therefore it was not 
until February, 1875, that the ceremony of laying 


the foundation stone could take place. At the 
united and earnest request of the Trustees, the 
Founder consented to lay the stone upon the 
occasion of his eightieth birthday ; and thus, on 
the 25th of February, 1875, the work which had 
occupied nearly six years of consideration and 
preparation was formally begun, with the simple 
ceremonial already described. 

The following description of the College 
building, as completed for opening, is reprinted 
from the Birmingham Daily Post of October 2nd, 

The site extends from Edmund Street to Great Charles 
Street, and comprises about an acre of land, with a frontage of 
150 feet to the former thoroughfare, and a depth of 313 feet; 
but only half the ground is at present covered with buildings. 
These are arranged round two quadrangles, the main block 
fronting to Edmund Street, and a range of buildings of about 
the same bulk standing parallel with it at the rear. The two 
are connected with it by east and west wings, and by a covered 
central corridor and out-offices, which divide the enclosed space 
into two open courts, each of ample extent for the purpose of 
light and ventilation. With the exception of the east wing, aU 
the buildings are four storeys in height, and in the centre of the 
principal facade a large museum has been provided, partly in the 
lofty roof. A general idea of the plan may perhaps be best 
given by stating that the area over half an acre is about square, 
the principal rooms being in two ranges of building, one forming 
the front to Edmund Street, and the other parallel to it at the 
back, these blocks being connected by narrower buildings, and 
the quadrangle thus enclosed is divided by the main corridors 
on each floor, the central staircase, lavatories, &c. In addition 
to the square thus formed, towards Great Charles Street on the 


western side is a range of rooms, three storeys high, which, have 
since been added. The whole of the walls are of brick and 
stone. For the front in Edmund Street an excellent deep-red 
brick from Kingswinford has been employed, with Portland, 
Bath, and Bolton Wood stone for the windows and other details. 
The elevation is symmetrical, having the principal entrance in 
the centre. It is in the 13th century style, with details of a 
somewhat French character. The ground floor is raised seven 
feet above the street level, and a massive plinth of Bromley 
stone is carried to this height. It is somewhat unfortunate that 
the space in front of the College is only partially open ground, 
so that it is impossible to get a full view of the whole structure, 
The building, however, does not suffer so much from this cause 
as might have been expected ; and, on the whole, it appears to 
great advantage from a near point of view, with a sharp fore- 
shortening of the facade. It will be noticed, however, that the 
western gable extremity of the principal front has not been 
completed. This arises from a dispute as to light.* 

The College is entered from a boldly-moulded and deeply- 
recessed arch, with shafts of grey York stone. Their bases stand 
above the plinth, and thus the moulding and all details liable to 
damage are placed above the reach of injury The entrance is 
closed by handsome wrought-iron gates, sliding into grooves in 
the jambs. Over the gateway projects a stone balcony, above 
which is a bold and elaborate oriel window of two storeys in 
height, with geometrical tracery in the heads of the lights. The 
lofty central gable, against which the upper part of the oriel 
abuts, is terminated by a mermaid — the crest of the generous 
founder of the institution — at a height of 122 feet above the pave- 
ment. All the windows — and there are sixty of them in front 
of the building, besides the dormers and oriels — have geometrical 
tracery within deeply-recessed arches, with effective moulded 
and shafted jambs, the latter having carved capitals. A stone 
balcony extends along the whole of the front at the level of the 
roof, and is stopped at the angles of the several blocks by 
octagonal turrets carried out from the lines of the front on 
moulded corbels. On the facade at various points are carved the 

* The dispute has been settled by the purchase of the adjoining 
building; and the work is finished. 


arms of Birmingham, Warwickshire, "Worcestershire, and of Sir 
Josiah Mason. The roofs, which are of a very steep pitch, are 
red tiled, and are pierced by dormers of quaint design, which, 
with the ornamental turrets and chimneys springing from the 
top of the building, have a highly picturesque effect. The 
whole of the principal front, indeed, is treated with remarkable 
skill ; it is bold without bareness, massive without heaviness, 
and full of richly and admirably-designed detail without 
pettiness, or giving any sense of being too much broken up. 
Yet, elaborate as this work appears on a general view, closer 
inspection shows that the effect is gained by the simplest means, 
and these wholly constructional — the true test of an architect's 
capacity to deal with ornament. Speaking alike of the general 
mass of the edifice and of its enrichments, we but repeat the 
common judgment in pronouncing it the finest building in 
Birmingham, and one of which the town has good reason to be 
proud ; and although the common judgment is not always right, 
yet in this instance there will be found no one disposed to 
contest it. 

Entering the College by the finely-groined porch, which has 
moulded ribs, resting on dwarf columns, with carved capitals, 
the spaces between the wall ribs being filled with geometrical 
tracery and carved spandrils, the visitor finds a handsome central 
corridor, about 100ft. long by 8£ft. broad, with transverse 
corridors branching to the right and the left. The latter conduct 
to the offices connected with the administration of the College, a 
room allotted to the Natural History Society, and two professors' 
rooms. The side corridors turn northwards along the wings of 
the building. In the eastern wing there are two rooms and a 
class room for the use of female students, and in the western 
two class rooms and an assistant's room for men. These rooms 
which are about 15ft. square, have windows looking into the 
quadrangles, and also receive light from the corridors. The 
corridors end in smaller doors to the apartments in the northern 
main block, to which, however, the principal approach is by the 
central corridor. Proceeding along the latter from the entrance* 
the visitor first passes on his right the handsome main staircase 
from basement to top, which opens from the corridor, and is 
divided from it by an arcade of richly-moulded arches, resting on 


polished Aberdeen granite, with carved capitals. A door 
opposite leads to an excellently-arranged cloak room, lavatory, 
&c. The windows of the corridor and staircases throughout are 
of stone, with shafted jambs, carved capitals, and moulded 
arches. There are also staircases at the extremity of the trans- 
verse corridors communicating with every storey, and descending 
into the basement. 

At the extreme end of the central corridor are two noble 
apartments, each 48ft. by 30ft. The one on the right is the library 
and reading room, and has behind it an ante-room, which can 
either be used as a place for conversation, or as a separate reading 
room for ladies. The room on the left is the physics laboratory, 
fitted with every requisite. It also has an ante-room, which is 
set apart for apparatus, and a dark room for spectroscope studies. 
The western corridor is continued past the end of this room 
along the annexe which projects further towards Great Charles 
Street, and in which are provided a workshop and two rooms, 
at the disposal of the professor of physics. 

On reaching the first floor by the principal staircase, a short 
turn to the left conducts to the rooms facing Edmund Street. 
The chief and central room is the chemical lecture theatre, 
49ft. by 33ft., fitted with seats tier above tier, for the accommo- 
dation of 155 students. The male students will occupy the 
lower half, and the female students the seats above and behind 
them, a separate entrance being provided for each sex. The 
arrangements for the convenience of the lecturer or demonstrator 
are probably the most complete to be found in any similar 
institution. He has a long table fitted with sinks, mercury 
baths, down-draught flues (to carry away the noxious fumes that 
may be evolved in any of the demonstrations), and taps supply- 
ing hydrogen gas, oxygen gas, and water, with improved arrange- 
ments for regulating the supply. In the wall behind the 
lecturer are three niches, closed by a shutter, with stench-flue 
over, in which any process may be carried on in sight of the 
students. The theatre is admirably lighted, but can in a few 
moments be rendered dark by the drawing of opaque blinds, 
with which the whole of the windows are furnished. The ante- 
room for the lecturer's assistant is a large apartment, furnished 
with slabs, sinks, and stench-flues, and everything which could 


be desired for the preparation of chemical experiments and 
demonstrations. Behind this there is another room, in which 
what are called collections may he permanently kept in readi- 
ness. Leaving the lecture theatre by a door at the top of the 
auditorium, there is a class room for electricity, and another for 
magnetism, &c. These complete the front rooms on the first 
floor. The western wing of the first floor has been assigned 
mainly to the biological department of the College. Adjoining 
the spacious lecture theatre is the biological laboratory — a large 
and well-lighted room, 60ft. by 21ft. and, in addition, 
there is a private room for the professor, a preparation 
room, and rooms for the demonstrator and attendant. One or 
two rooms have also been set aside for students or others who 
may wish to devote themselves to original research. On the base- 
ment floor there are rooms for storage and for the temporary 
reception of live animals. It may also be mentioned, in con- 
nection with this department, that an old building in the yard 
at the rear of the College will be arranged for the dissection of 
large animals. The corresponding portion of the eastern wing 
consists of rooms to be used for apparatus and other purposes in 
connection with the physics department. The first floor of the 
north main block is occupied by two other lecture theatres — one 
for biology and mathematics, and the other for physics, the 
latter 47ft. by 30fb., and the former a little smaller, with 
preparation rooms at the end of each. 

The second floor or top storey is principally devoted to the 
chemical department, for which the arrangements are of the 
most extensive and complete kind. A large room, 25ft. by 33ft., 
in the front of the building, over the chemical lecture theatre, 
will be used as a general assembly and examination room. The 
window of this room is the oriel which forms such a conspicuous 
eature in the facade ; it is a lofty, well-proportioned apartment, 
and will be available for meetings of scientific societies. Upon 
one side of it are the private study and private laboratory of the 
chemistry professor, fitted up with every requisite for research ; 
and on the other side are rooms for tho curator of the museum 
and for class purposes. The laboratories are situated end to end 
in the north block or back range, and are lighted both by 
windows and skylights. These measure together about 104 feet 


long by 32 wide, and are divided by a screen in the centre. 
The larger laboratory is for qualitative analysis, and the smaller 
for quantitative. The arrangements have been the subject of 
great thought and investigation by the architect, with a view to 
render them as complete and well designed as possible. In the 
qualitative laboratory there are four double operating tables, 
fitted with sinks, gas, and water for forty students, and there is 
a large unencumbered table in the middle of the apartment for 
long trains of chemical apparatus. Along the walls are ten 
niches for operations giving off fumes, each provided with a flue, 
which rapidly carries off the vapours produced into the outer 
air. There are slabs at each window for investigations requiring 
a large amount of daylight, and shelves arranged along the walls 
with all the reagents required by the students in their investiga- 
tions. At the end of the laboratory are slabs and ovens for 
drying purposes. The laboratory for quantitative analysis is a 
little shorter than the one just described. In addition to fittings 
and appliances similar to those in the other laboratory for thirty- 
two students, there are two large ventilated niches lighted from 
the back. There is an extra room in the annexe for gas 
analysis, another for delicate weighing operations, and a room 
for the demonstrator. The western wing is not carried above 
the first floor, but the eastern wing affords accommodation for a 
chemical reference library and reading room, a room for com- 
bustions and fusions, and a steward's store room. From the 
latter the students will be able to obtain all the apparatus they 
may require. 

In addition to the three complete floors previously described, 
over the third floor, in the centre of the front block, is a large 
and lofty room, with open timber roof, and partially lighted 
from the top, intended for use as a museum. The walls have 
been fitted with glazed wall-cases, and on the floor are mahogany 
cases, with glazed tops, for the display of specimens, with nests 
of drawers underneath. All these have been constructed on the 
most approved principles for the exclusion of dust and air. The 
collection of Silurian fossils already arranged in the cases is the 
property of the trustees, and will form the nucleus of a museum, 
which it is intended shall be of a strictly scientific character, 
and specially adapted to the requirements of the professors and 



their classes. The collection consists of a remarkably fine series 
of marine fossils from the Wenlock limestone, and calcareous 
shale of Dudley ; nearly all the specimens are in a fine state of 
preservation, and the collection, as a whole, affords a very com- 
plete illustration of the life of the Upper Silurian period. The 
basement story, extending under the whole of the ground floor, 
is lofty and well lighted, and contains store rooms, rooms for 
special operations in physics and chemistry, a large room for 
mineralogy, boilers for heating and for steam, and for other 
purposes. This communicates with a spacious yard at the back, 
entered by a covered cartway from Great Charles Street, for 
the admission of coals, stores, &c. A special room has also 
been reserved for the use of the professor of physics, in which 
arrangements will be provided for carrying on the interesting 
and delicate experiment of weighing the earth. 

The ventilation and warming of the College are upon an 
improved and effective plan. Near the centre of the area rises 
a very large chimney-stack to the height of about 160 feet, and 
it is divided into three flues by partitions. The central flue 
carries the smoke from the boiler, and heats the air in the 
adjoining flues, which are used for ventilating the lecture 
theatres. The pipe from the fume-niches in the chemical 
laboratories also communicate with the stack by means of a 
horizontal flue round the walls. The warming is effected by a 
coil of pipes, containing 4,475 superficial feet, placed in a 
vault in the basement. These are warmed by the water from 
the large boiler, and the air from the courts, passing over the 
pipes, is conducted by flues to every room in the building. In 
summer cold air is admitted into the rooms by the same means. 
This promises to be a very successful mode of warming the 
building. The drains have been constructed with unusual care, 
and are ventilated into a spacious flue, carried up into the main 
shaft. Another important feature is the lavatory accommodation, 
which is ample and complete, there being cloak rooms and 
lavatories on every floor opposite the central stairs, while the 
larger number of closets are in the yard beyond, and entirely cut 
off from the main building. A lift runs through all the 
floors for taking up stores and other things, and there is also a 
common shaft carrying the gas and water pipes, the junctions of 


which are easily accessible upon each floor. The curious in such 
matters may like to know that there are about one hundred 
rooms in the college, and 370 windows, while at present 
about 8,000 feet of gas-piping have been used. 

Our readers have now, we hope, a general idea of the 
arrangement of this half-an-acre building which the munificence 
of Sir Josiah Mason and the skill of Mr. Cossins have 
combined to add to the educational institutions of Birmingham. 
No gift nobler in its motive, more beneficent in its purpose, 
or more perfect in its aptitude and completeness could be 
offered by a citizen of a great community for the acceptance 
of his fellow townsmen ; and the gift is magnificently complete, 
for, in addition to the large endowments previously conveyed 
to the trustees, Sir Josiah Mason has built the college and 
has furnished its various departments with the necessary fittings 
entirely at his own cost, so that the interest attaching to this 
crowning of his great work is enhanced by the fact that, from 
the laying the foundation stone to the final touches, the 
Founder has taken the keenest personal pleasure in the progress 
of the work, visiting the building almost daily, inspecting 
every detail, and giving from time to time most valuable help 
in the way of suggestion. His one desire has been that the 
place should be in all respects worthy of the town, and of 
the purposes to which it is to be devoted, and, we may 
venture to add, worthy also of the feeling in wjiich the work 
originated. In one respect — and that of vital consequence — Sir 
Josiah Mason has been singularly fortunate — namely, in the 
choice of Mr. J. A. Cossins as his architect. Of the skill in de- 
sign which Mr. Cossins has exhibited we have already spoken. 
Apart from this, his labour in connection with the building is 
alike beyond expression and beyond praise. It has, indeed, 
been with him a labour of love. In order to prepare himself to 
make an adequate plan, he visited, at the request of the trustees, 
all the principal scientific colleges on the Continent and in our 
own country, and the best features and latest improvements of 
these will, we believe, be found incorporated in the plan of the 
Mason College. In the work of building Mr. Cossins has under- 
taken labours of an unusual kind. Headers acquainted with 
such operations will understand this when we say that the 


College has been erected without making a single contract. The 
architect himself laid out the work, and saw personally to the 
execution of every detail. The result is a building of wonderful 
solidity, completeness, and harmony of arrangement; but the 
labour has been enormous, and has entailed almost constant 
attendance during the whole period of construction. Now that 
it is finished, Mr. Cossins may be well content with the result of 
his devotion, and the Founder and the town have special and 
enduring reason to be indebted to him. Others concerned in the 
building are also deserving of honourable mention. Mr. Cossins 
has had the valuable assistance of Mr. Hodgkiss as manager ; the 
stonework has been executed by Mr. Prothero ; the carving is 
by Mr. J. Smith ; Messrs. Camm Brothers have supplied the 
ornamental glass, which is excellent in design and quality ; the 
gas-fittings are by Messrs. E. W. Winfield and Co.; Mr. Pearce 
has furnished the other glass ; the wrought-iron entrance gate (a 
remarkably fine specimen of iron-working) is by Messrs. C. 
Smith and Sons, Deritend; the painting by Mr. Potter; and 
some of the movable fittings by the Midland Joinery Company, 
the rest, including the fittings of the lecture theatres and labora- 
tories, having been made in the College workshops, under the 
superintendence of the architect. The furniture for the trustees' 
room and the assembly room has been made by Messrs. Marris 
and Norton ; and other rooms have been furnished by Messrs. 
Chamberlain, King, and Jones, and Messrs. Manton and Sons. 
Messrs. Hart, Son, and Peard supplied the ornamental ironwork 
on the roof of the college, the balustrades, and the iron 
windows and the plumbing was done by Mr. Cook." 

Since this description was published, an 
important addition has been made to the College 
buildings, by the erection of a series of rooms for 
the department of Physiology ; the means of 
effecting this enlargement being obtained by the 
purchase of an adjoining property. Some changes 
have also been made in the internal arrangement, 
so as to provide for additional professors. 


We now return to the Deed of Foundation, 
in order to explain the intention of the Founder, 
the nature of the Trust, the scope and government 
of the College, and the property conveyed to the 
Trustees for the maintenance of the institution. 

An authentic statement of the Founder's 
design is given in the recital with which the 
original Deed commences, as follows : — 

"In explanation of the object and intention 
of these presents, the said Josiah Mason desires it 
to be recorded that he was born at Kidderminster, 
in the county of Worcester, and that from his 
earliest youth he was engaged in earning his live- 
lihood, first as a shoemaker, then as a baker, then 
as a carpet weaver at Kidderminster aforesaid, 
when at the age of twenty years he came to 
Birmingham, where until the age of thirty years he 
was a jeweller and gilt toy maker, and was then 
introduced into his present business of steel split- 
ring and key-ring making (which introduction was 
the foundation of all his subsequent worldly 
prosperity) by his good friend Samuel Harrison, 
the first inventor of steel split-rings, and that he, 
the said Josiah Mason, having succeeded to the 
said business of the said Samuel Harrison, added 
to it the manufacture of steel pens, both of which 
businesses he hath ever since continued. With 
the capital acquired in the said businesses he the 
said Josiah Mason afterwards entered into partner- 


ship with George Kichards Elkington (now de- 
ceased), as electro-platers and gilders, under the 
firm of Elkington and Mason, and then in the 
business of copper-smelting, under the firm of 
Mason and Elkington, And the said Josiah 
Mason hath dedicated a portion of the wealth so 
acquired by him in erecting and endowing at 
Erdington aforesaid an Orphan Asylum for Boys 
and Girls, under the name of Josiah Mason's 
Orphanage, and being deeply convinced, from his 
long and varied experience as aforesaid in different 
branches of manufacture, of the necessity for a 
benefit of thorough systematic scientific instruction, 
specially adapted to the practical, mechanical, and 
artistic requirements of the manufactures and 
industrial pursuits of the Midland district, and 
particularly of the Boroughs of Birmingham and 
Kidderminster, he hath determined to devote a 
portion of his remaining property to the foundation 
of an institution wherein such systematic scientific 
education may be given. And in order to connect 
the said institution with Josiah Mason's Orphanage, 
and to commemorate his connection with Birming- 
ham and Kidderminster, the said Josiah Mason 
hath determined to provide for such preference for 
certain of the pupils of the said Orphanage, and 
for persons born in the said Boroughs of Birming- 
ham and Kidderminster, as is hereinafter provided." 
In another clause of the Deed this recital is 


continued, as follows :— " It being understood that 
the institution intended to be hereby founded is 
intended to be called Josiah Mason's Scientific 
College, or Josiah Mason's College for the Study of 
Practical Science, he the said Josiah Mason hereby 
declares that his intention in founding the same is 
to promote, in conformity with these presents, 
thorough systematic education and instruction 
specially adapted to the practical, mechanical, and 
artistic requirements of the manufactures and 
industrial pursuits of the Midland district, and 
particularly the Boroughs of Birmingham and 
Kidderminster, to the exclusion of mere literary 
education and instruction, and of all teaching of 
theology and of subjects purely theological, which 
limitations the said Josiah Mason hereby declares 
to be fundamental. ,, 

Subject to this general statement, the subjects 
of regular systematic instruction to be given in the 
College are defined in the following clause (the 
24th of the Deed) : — " As soon as practicable 
after the completion of suitable buildings and 
erections in connection with the institution, 
proper arrangements shall be made by the 
Trustees for the systematic instruction of the 
students by means of regular classes, and such 
other means aa shall, from time to time, be 
deemed expedient, in all such subjects as shall 
be necessary to accomplish the purpose and in- 


tention of the said institution, as heretofore 
declared. And the Founder hereby expressly 
declares that such instruction (hereafter referred 
to as regular systematic instruction) shall, as far 
as practicable, include the following subjects, 
namely : — 

" Mathematics, abstract and applied ; 

" Physics, both mathematical and experi- 
mental ; 

"Chemistry, theoretical, practical, and 
applied ; 

" The Natural Sciences, especially Geology 
and Mineralogy, with their applica- 
tions to Metallurgy ; 

" Botany and Zoology, with special appli- 
cation to Manufactures ; 

" Physiology, with special reference to 
the Laws of Health ; 

"The English, French, and German Lan- 
guages ; 

and may, in the discretion of the Trustees, in- 
clude all such other subjects of instruction as 
shall be necessary to carry into effect the inten- 
tion of the Founder to give thorough systematic 
scientific education and instruction, specially 
adapted to the practical, mechanical, and artistic 
requirements for the time being of the manu- 
factures and industrial pursuits of the Midland 


district, and of the Boroughs of Birmingham and 
Kidderminster and the surrounding districts, but 
excluding mere literary education and instruc- 
tion." The next clause extends the scheme of the 
College, by providing that the Trustees may 
make arrangements to give instruction of " a 
more general or popular character, by means of 
additional lectures and classes, occasional or other- 
wise," upon the subjects iD eluded in the regular 
course of the College. One class of subjects is, 
however, expressly excluded. It is "provided 
always, that no lectures, or teaching, or examina- 
tion shall be permitted in the institution upon 
theology, or any question or subject in its nature 
purely theological, or upon any question which for 
the time being shall be the subject of party political 
controversy;" and this condition, it is added, " the 
said Josiah Mason doth declare to be fundamental." 
At the same time, it is also expressly provided that 
theological opinion shall be no bar to the appoint- 
ment of teachers. On this point, it is declared to 
be " a fundamental condition of the institution " 
that "no principal, vice -principal, professor, teacher, 
or other officer, servant, or assistant of the institu- 
tion shall be required to make any declaration as 
to, or to submit to any test whatever of their 
religious or theological opinions, or be presumed to 
be qualified or disqualified by any such religious 
or theological opinions, but shall be appointed 



solely for their fitness to give the scientific or 
artistic instruction required from them." 

By a subsequent deed, dated February 23, 
1874, the expression, "regular systematic instruc- 
tion" in the original deed, was expanded so as 
to include the teaching of Anatomy and of the 
Greek and Latin languages. A third deed, dated 
February 23, 1881, still further enlarges and 
completes the teachiDg scheme of the College. It 
recites that the Founder desires to qualify the 
College for admission as a constituent member of 
the London University or the Victoria University, 
and as a complete course in Arts is necessary for 
this purpose, the deed provides that the "regular 
systematic instruction" may, at the discretion of 
the Trustees, include not only the subjects specified 
by the previous deed, " but also all such other 
subjects, not being expressly included by the said 
Deed of Foundation, as the Trustees for the time 
being shall judge necessary or desirable for the 
benefit of the students, with the view more 
especially of promoting and maintaining such a 
course of study as shall qualify for degrees in Arts 
and Science in the Victoria University, or the 
London University, or any other University of 
which the Institution shall form part." This deed 
also authorises the Trustees to give " popular or 
unsystematic instruction upon such other subjects 
not expressly excluded by the Deed of Foundation," 


and also, "to vary the course of instruction, either 
by the addition or introduction of subjects not for 
the time being previously taught and not expressly 
included by the Deed of Foundation, or by the 
discontinuance of any subject or class of subjects 
previously taught, as the Trustees shall, from time 
to time, in their absolute discretion, think fit." 
By the same deed the name of the Institution is 
declared to be " The Mason Science College." 

The effect of these several deeds is that the 
Trustees are authorised to provide instruction in 
all branches of Science (including medical and 
surgical science), in Art, in Languages and Litera- 
ture, and in all subjects required for degrees in 
Arts or Science. They are authorised also to 
institute a scheme of popular as well as regular 
and systematic instruction. In one word— ex- 
eluding theology and politics — the scheme of 
teaching in the College is absolutely unfettered, 
and the Trustees have power to vary the scheme as 
occasion may require. 

In order to ensure the adaptation of the 
College and its course of teaching to the require- 
ments of the district from time to time, it is 
provided that, excepting as regards the provisions 
declared to be fundamental, the Trustees shall 
review the course of instruction at each annual 
meeting, and that they may, at successive periods 
of fifteen years, alter or vary the provisions of the 


Deed as regards the course of instruction, and 
other matters of government and arrangement; 
such alterations to be of a nature which, in the 
unanimous judgment of the Trustees, "shall tend 
to make the regulations and provisions for the 
time being subsisting in relation to the institution 
better adapted to the then for the time being 
existing practical, mechanical, and artistical re- 
quirements of the manufacturing and industrial 
population of the Midland district of England, and 
especially of the Boroughs of Birmingham and 
Kidderminster. " 

The Deed provides further that the instruction 
given in the College, whether in the regular or 
popular classes, is to be free or payable by fees at 
the discretion of the Trustees, and they are 
empowered to create scholarships, exhibitions, 
prizes, &c. There is no limitation upon admission 
of students as regards creed, race, age, sex, or birth- 
place, so far as concerns the popular classes ; but as 
concerns the regular classes the Trustees, all other 
things being all equal, are required to give prefer- 
ence to candidates who may have been or may be 
inmates of Sir Josiah Mason's Orphanage, to the 
extent of not more than one-fifth of the whole 
number of regular students, and thereafter prefer- 
ence is to be given to candidates (otherwise eligible) 
born within the Boroughs of Birmingham and 
Kidderminster, in the proportion of two Birmingham 


students to one Kidderminster student. In the 
original Deed of Foundation there were inserted 
clauses providing that no student not wholly- 
dependent' for a livelihood upon his own skill or 
labour, or dependent upon the support of his 
parents or some other person, should be admitted 
to the College; and providing also that students 
should not be under fourteen nor above twenty- 
five years of age. By a Deed of Variation, dated 
December 12, 1870, these provisions were annulled, 
and the following clause was substituted for them : 
— "It is hereby declared that whilst the poorer 
classes of the community are not to be considered 
as having any exclusive right to the benefit of the 
Institution gratuitously, or without payment of 
fees, yet no person shall be admitted to the benefit 
of the Institution without payment of fees who is 
not, in the judgment of the Trustees for the time 
being, either wholly or principally dependent for 
his livelihood upon his own skill and labour, 
or upon the support of his parent or parents, or 
some other person or persons." These regulations 
are, however, subject to exceptional variations at 
the discretion of the Trustees. 

During the lifetime of the Founder the govern- 
ment of the College was confided by the Foundation 
Deed to the six Trustees already named, the Founder 
himself being Visitor, and having the right to 
act as Bailiff or Chairman of the Trust, or to 


appoint any one of the Trustees to act in 
that capacity for him. He had also the power 
of appointing teachers and officers during his 
life. After his decease the Town Council of 
Birmingham were empowered to nominate five 
other Trustees, who may be, but need not be 
members of the Town Council, and these 
five, together with the six now appointed, 
constitute the future body of Trustees, who are 
never to be more than eleven in number. Vacan- 
cies in the Borough or official Trustees are to be 
filled up by the Town Council, and vacancies in the 
other six Trustees are to be filled by the whole 
body. All the Trustees are to be laymen and 
Protestants, and this qualification is declared to be 
fundamental. Any Trustee ceasing to be a layman 
or Protestant must be removed from office, and 
any Trustee may be removed for misconduct. 
Trustees may, it is provided, render professional 
and other services to the institution, may be 
appointed as professors or teachers, and may 
receive remuneration for their services. 

The property conveyed to the original Trustees 
as recited in the Deed of Foundation has since 
that date been considerably augmented in amount. 
At the close of the year 1881, it consisted of 
freehold lands, buildings, and ground rents, in 
various parts of Birmingham, yielding an annual 
revenue of £3,700. The purchase value of this 


property was £110,000. The sum of £60,000, 
provided in addition by the Founder, was ex- 
pended upon the building and furnishing of the 
College ; thus, up to the date above mentioned, 
raising the total benefaction to £170,000. By Sir 
Josiah Mason's will, the College is constituted his 
residuary legatee; and although the additional 
funds coming to it (after the satisfaction of certain 
life interests described in the will) are not yet 
ascertained, it may be assumed that the total 
amount of the Foundation will not ultimately fall 
very far short of £200,000. 

The reader will now understand what Sir 
Josiah Mason contemplated by his great benefac- 
tion. His design was to establish a College, open 
to all, unfettered by restrictions of class, creed, race, 
or sex, capable of teaching all that can be taught in 
science, literature, and art, placed virtually under 
public management, supplied with a magnificent 
building, and aided by a liberal endowment. So far 
as human foresight can secure it, his object will be 
attained, for all the provisions which experience can 
suggest, so as to combine fixity of purpose with 
freedom of government, and adaptation to changing 
times and circumstances, are embodied in his Deed 
of Foundation. 

The College was formally opened on the 1st 
of October, 1880. The proceedings of the day 
began with a meeting in the Town HaU, presided 


over by Mr. Richard Chamberlain, then Mayor of 
Birmingham, and attended by representatives of the 
Corporations of Birmingham and Kidderminster, 
and of the leading Scientific and Literary Institu- 
tions of Birmingham, and the Universities of Oxford, 
Cambridge, and London, the Victoria University, 
and by the Trustees and Professors of the College. 
The venerable Founder was himself able to be 
present at the ceremony. His appearance on 
the platform of the Hall was hailed by a prolonged 
and enthusiastic burst of cheering from the vast 
assembly. When the official persons engaged in 
the business of the day had taken their seats, a 
choir selected from the Birmingham Festival Choral 
Society, conducted by Mr. Stockley, sang Men- 
delssohn's hymn, " Let our Theme of Praise 
Ascending," the words of which, as peculiarly 
appropriate to the occasion, may here be re 
peated : — 

"Let our theme of praise ascending, 
Blent in music's lofty strain, 
Soaring through the starry main, 
Peal in echoes never ending. 

" Learning dawn'd, its light arose ; 
Thus the Truth assailed its foes, 

Faith and Hope began to banish 
Doubt and soul-appalling fear. 


Spreading— shining still more clear, 

Error in their beams will vanish ; 
Learning dawn'd, its light arose, 
Thus the Truth assailed its foes. 



"Mortals roam'd without a guide, 
Darkness clouded every nation; 
Not a ray could be descried, 
All was gloom and desolation. 

" Learning dawn'd, its light arose ; 
Thus the Truth assails its foes, 
Till the earth with one accord, 
Shall adore and praise the Lord." 

On the conclusion of the hymn, Professor 
Huxley, who had kindly complied with the invita- 
tion of the Trustees to be present, delivered a 
brilliant address. On the motion of the Mayor, 
seconded by Dr. Heslop (one of the Trustees), a 
vote of thanks was given to Dr. Huxley for 
his address. In brief but well-chosen sentences, 
Dr. Huxley, acknowledging the vote, said there 
were many then present " who could look back to 
the time when the anticipations of the building or 
dedication of a College such as that which they 
had now seen launched, would have been looked 
upon as piece of chimerical absurdity, and when 
there was not, in the whole of the three kingdoms, 
accessible to the inhabitants, high or low, such 
teaching as would now be available to every 
inhabitant of Birmingham, rich or poor, in Mason's 
Scientific College. " 

In the afternoon of the same day a luncheon 
was given at the Queen's Hotel. Mr. G-. J. Johnson, 
Chairman of the Trustees, presided, and the vice- 
chairs were taken by three of the Trustees, Dr. 



Heslop, Dr. Gibbs Blake, and Mr. J. T. Bunce. 
The company consisted of the principal visitors 
who had attended the Town Hall meeting, and of 
representatives of literary, scientific, and general 
educational institutions in the town. Amongst 
those who proposed or acknowledged the toasts 
given after luncheon were the Chairman, Mr. R. W. 
Dale, Dr. Tilden (Professor of Chemistry at the 
College), Professor Roscoe (of the Owens College), 
Mr. Bunce, Professor Huxley, Professor Max Muller, 
Professor Greenwood (the Owens College), Mr. 
Cossins (the architect of the College building), and 
the Mayor of Birmingham. The speeches generally 
were of a most interesting character, some of them 
— especially those of Mr. Dale and Professor Max 
Muller— were of a remarkable order of excellence ; 
and one of them, that of Mr. Johnson, the Chair- 
man, and representative of the Founder, contained 
so much information as to the inception and 
purpose of the work then completed, that it merits 
reproduction as a contribution to the life of Sir 
Josiah Mason : — 

Mr. Johnson said: "On the part of Sir Josiah Mason, he 
had to make his apologies for not being able to be with them in 
person, and to thank them for the enthusiasm with which 
they had drunk the toast. Next he had to express Sir Josiah 
Mason's devout thankfulness that he had been permitted to see 
the conclusion of two such important undertakings as the estab- 
lishment of his Orphanage and Science College. When they 
reflected that he had already passed the period of three score years 
and ten before the Orphanage was finished, and that the founda- 


ation stone of the College was laid on his eightieth birthday, 
they would join in the expression of congratulation that he had 
lived to see the completion of two such institutions. It was 
natural that their venerable friend, being childless himself, and 
in search of some good use to which his wealth might be applied, 
should first think of the fatherless and those ' that had none to 
help them/ and should be filled with an intense desire to do 
something to alleviate the misery of such. Out of that desire 
sprang the present Orphanage at Erdington. But when that was 
finished, Sir Josiah Mason being then in his 76th year, he found 
that there were still, to use his own language, derived from 
the old Worcestershire dialect, some oddments left, and he was 
anxious to do something in another direction to benefit the town 
in which he lived. That object was found in the establishment 
of the College which was opened that day. If a man wanted to 
write a story he could not do better than write a story of the 
difficulties of a gentleman who wanted to give £400,000 away 
wisely and well. He assured them that although it was very 
easy for Sir Josiah to write one large cheque for his Orphanage 
trustees, and another large cheque for the trustees of his College, 
and tell them to apply the money just as they liked, it was a 
different thing, having regard to all the difficulties of the case, 
to expend the money so as to be free from the reproach which 
Professor Huxley so justly cast on that indiscriminate charity 
that neither blesses him that gives nor him that takes. Professor 
Huxley, in his address, spoke rather disrespectfully of the phrase, 
'applied science.' Perhaps Professor Huxley would regard 
that phrase with more favour if he (the chairman) told him that 
it was probably to that phrase that they owed the existence of 
the Mason College. Sir Josiah Mason felt that it would be a 
most appropriate thing for him, as an old manufacturer — a 
manufacturer who started in life with none of the advantages of 
education, either scientific or non-scientific, and who could 
appreciate the difficulties of others — to devote the remnants of 
his wealth to an establishment of the kind they were inaugu- 
rating. They would, however, mistake Sir Josiah very much if 
they thought he would act upon an impulse of that kind without 
first thinking out every detail of the project. Accordingly, 
having resolved to found an institution of that kind, he sought 


the best assistance that was in his power. And here he must 
acknowledge the valuable aid that Sir Josiah Mason derived 
from a gentleman unfortunately not known to the great majority 
of those present — he meant Mr. George Shaw. No man was 
better qualified, from his large and accurate knowledge of every 
department of science, to give Sir Josiah Mason the assistance 
which at that precise period he required in laying down the 
broad and clear lines of his Science College. He thought 
Professor Huxley would agree that in no mere utilitarian spirit 
had those lines been laid down, and it was due to Mr. Shaw 
that this acknowledgment should be made. It took twelve 
months to lay down a well-digested plan of the College. After 
that Sir Josiah's difficulties began. There was, first, the 
important question of the site. He was glad to hear Mr. R. W. 
Dale refer with approbation to the site which had been selected : 
and he was desired by Sir Josiah Mason to tender his acknow- 
ledgment to another gentleman, Mr. P. H. Muntz, M.P., who 
had afforded him the opportunity of acquiring the first part of 
the site of the present College. Perhaps some of them might 
regret that the building did not come up to the corner of the 
street. It would not be prudent that he (the chairman) should 
explain all the causes of that ; but there were certain things 
about it which were not at first obvious. The site of the 
College not only included the present building, but space for its 
extension through into Great Charles Street, and room there for 
lateral extension on both sides, and ultimately he believed it 
would be found that the site of the College, if not so showy as 
it might have been, had within it the elements of permanent 
extension that would be more really useful than if it 
had occupied that which at first sight all of them would wish 
it should have occupied. Then they had other things to 
contend with. The Mayor knew what difficulties there were 
in carrying out a town improvement, even with all the powers 
of compulsory purchase which the Corporation possessed. But 
Sir Josiah was effecting a town improvement with no com- 
pulsory powers. He had no powers but those of a tolerably 
long purse and inexhaustible store of patience. Here again 
he (the chairman) was quite sure that Sir Josiah Mason 
would wish to acknowledge the services of one of his Orphanage 



trustees in this matter, whom he was glad to see then 
present — Mr. Isaac Horton. Mr. Horton had assisted them in 
this matter with more zeal and industry than he had bestowed 
upon his own private concerns, and in Birmingham they 
knew what that meant. Indeed, Mr. Horton had realised for 
them the story in the Gospel of the man who was sent on a 
certain errand with the message ' The Master hath need of 
him.' That was a sufficient warrant for Mr. Horton to go to 
any owner of property and tell him he must sell it, because Sir 
Josiah Mason must have it. And then, rather curious to say, 
'straightway they let it go;' though he (the chairman) could not 
say that the letting go was always of the gratuitous character 
which pertained to the Gospel instance. But then, when the 
plan of the College was laid down, and the site of the College 
was secured, there came the very important question of laying 
down the foundation of the trust. He was not going to discuss 
any question concerning that, but he was very glad to hear from 
Professor Huxley that what had been done met with that 
gentleman's entire concurrence. Whether any provision in that 
trust was wise or foolish, whether it was good or bad, he could 
tell them that it was not there fortuitously or accidentally, but 
it had been carefully considered not only by those who had 
technical knowledge and skill in such matters, but by Sir 
Josiah Mason himself, who had brought to bear upon it a clear- 
ness of judgment, long experience, and vigour of intellect which 
he (the chairman) had never seen exceeded in a man of business. 
When all this was settled, they had next to consider the kind of 
building. How fortunate they were in a choice of an architect 
' he should leave Professor Eoscoe to decide ; but he thought it 
would be ungracious if he did not say that during the five and 
half years the College had been in the course of erection he had 
had constant relations with Mr. Cossins, and the patience, the 
good temper which that gentleman had displayed, and the 
enormous trouble he had taken, were beyond all praise. Five 
years passed from the year 1870 in surmounting the difficulties 
to which he had referred, and on the 23rd of February, 1875 
the foundation stone of the institution was laid. During the 
five and half years that had since elapsed, Sir Josiah Mason had 
been unremitting in his attention to the details of the institution. 


Whatever might he its merits, whatever its defects, one thing 
which ought to he said about it was, that ' Josiah Mason, his 
mark/ was all over it. Five and a half years ago they com- 
memorated, in the room over that in which they were now 
assembled, the laying of the foundation stone, and to-day they 
celebrated the completion of a task begun so late, and yet so 
happily concluded. For himself there was but one shade of 
regret which marred the perfect satisfaction of the day's pro- 
ceedings, and that was that he missed from that table the 
shrewd and kindly face of the late 'William Costen Aitken — 
one of their colleagues who was with them at the laying of the 
foundation stone. To Sir Josiah Mason — to his (the chairman's) 
other colleagues the trustees, the completion of the College was 
the completion of a project in which they had voluntarily 
engaged, with a full sense of its importance and utility ; but to 
Mr. Aitken it was more even than that — it was the realisation 
of the dream of his life, the accomplishment, in a better form 
than he had dared to hope for, of the object to which he had 
devoted his best energies. His (the chairman's) feelings on that 
might seem extravagant to those who did not know Mr. Aitken, 
but when he remembered that their late lamented friend had 
gone home from the laying of the foundation stone to die, it 
seemed to him like the departure of Simeon before the offering 
in the Temple. He would not longer occupy their time ; but if 
he might express the feelings of Sir Josiah as he would wish 
them expressed, it would be in the language of the only litera- 
ture with which as a boy he was acquainted — the literature 
which Professor Huxley so well said was the foundation of the 
literary culture of the masses of England, and especially the 
poor — ' I have done what I could ; I have taken the best 
advice ; I have settled my trust on the best foundation I knew 
how; more I cannot do. I have cast my bread upon the 
waters, hoping it will be found after many days.'" 

In the evening a conversazione, attended by 
about one thousand persons, was given at the 
College, which was profusely decorated for the 
occasion with flowers and works of art. Exhibi- 


tions of scientific interest were also arranged in 
several of the rooms. Here, shortly after eight 
o'clock, the ceremony of the formal transfer of the 
College building to the Trustees took place. Sir 
Josiah Mason was received at the door of the 
College by the Trustees, and was conducted to the 
reception room. Here he took his seat on the 
dais, and after the lapse of a few minutes he rose, 
and holding in his hand the key of the College, he 
addressed Mr. Johnson, the chairman of the 
Trustees, in the following words: — "This key of 
my College is now mine, and I can say that the 
College is mine ; but in a moment I shall be able 
to say so no longer, for I now present it, and with 
it the College, to my old friend Mr. Johnson, on 
behalf of my Trustees, to be held by them in trust 
for the benefit of generations to come." 

On receiving the key, Mr. Johnson said : " Sir 
Josiah Mason, I congratulate you, and I congratu- 
late the town, on the munificent gift you have just 
made. I heartily unite with you in the wish that 
this gift may prove a benefit to generations yet to 

Thus, with simple dignity, and amidst a 
respectful silence more eloquent than applause, 
was completed a work which stands without 
parallel in the annals of modern education in 
England — the gift of a College, amply planned, 
nobly built, liberally endowed; the generous 


benefaction of one man, who looked for no reward 
but the consciousness that, by his foundation, others 
would have the means of acquiring knowledge 
denied by the poverty of his earlier life to himself ; 
trusting, to quote the words of his address at the 
laying the foundation stone, that though unblessed 
with children of his own, he might, in the students 
of his College, leave behind him " an intelligent, 
earnest, industrious, and truth-loving and truth- 
seeking progeny for generations to come." 



Biographical Notes, Illness, and Death. 

In connection with Sir Josiah Mason's benefac- 
tions, certain public incidents of recognition should 
here be placed on record. When the Orphanage 
was completed and opened, in the year 1869, the 
Town Council of Birmingham, with warm ex- 
pressions of thanks, accepted the reversionary trust 
embodied in the Foundation Deed, and, as a mark 
of its estimation of the Founder's munificence, 
resolved that a portrait statue of him should be 
executed, and should be placed in the Corporation 
Art Gallery. Competitive designs were accordingly 
obtained from several sculptors, but none of them 
were approved by Mr. Mason, and the one selected 
by the Corporation Committee was finally rejected 
by him. The project consequently fell through, 
much to the satisfaction of Mr. Mason, who had 
very reluctantly consented to receive the proffered 
honour. Some gentlemen, however, who felt that 
some public recognition ought to be made, raised a 
private subscription for a testimonial portrait, for 
which Mr. Mason consented to sit to the artist 
selected by the subscribers — Mr. H. T. Munns, a 
member of the Eoyal Birmingham Society of 
Artists ; and this portrait, which was completed in 



December, 1872, was formally presented to the 
Town Council by Mr. Ealph Heaton, on behalf of 
the subscribers, and was placed in the Corporation 
Art Gallery. A smaller portrait, also painted by 
Mr. Munns, was purchased by Sir Josiah Mason's 
Executors, and presented to the College Trustees, 
and is now placed in the Board Eoom. After 
the death of Sir Josiah, a public meeting called 
by the Mayor was held, to raise funds for the 
erection of a statue, as a fitting monument to 
his memory. 

In the same year a well-deserved honour 
was accorded to Mr. Mason by Her Majesty the 
Queen. A statement of his benefaction in the 
establishment of the Orphanage, and of his 
further project of founding the Science College, 
was laid before Mr. Gladstone, the then Prime 
Minister, and was, by him, submitted to the 
Queen. By Her Majesty's command, Mr. Glad- 
stone was directed to offer to Mr. Mason the 
honour of knighthood, which was accepted by 
him, and the following announcement append 
in the London Gazette : — " Whitehall, November 
30th, 1872. The Queen has been pleased to 
direct letters patent to be passed under the Great 
Seal, granting the dignity of a Knight of the 
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 
unto Josiah Mason, of Norwood House, Erdington, 
near Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, 


Esquire." By special permission of Her Majesty, 
in consequence of Mr. Mason's age and the state 
of his health, the ceremonies of personal knight- 
hood and of presentation at Court were dispensed 

Besides those already mentioned in this 
Memoir, the personal incidents of Sir Josiah 
Mason's life, of a notable kind, were very few. In 
the year 1841 he suffered from a long and 
mysterious illness of the stomach, resulting in an 
almost total loss of energy and nervous power. To 
a man of his active habits this was peculiarly 
distressing, and he sought relief in the advice of 
the best medical men in Birmingham. They 
failed, however, to effect a cure, and the patient 
then went to Paris, in July, 1841, to consult 
some of the leading French practitioners. Amongst 
others, he consulted Dr. Louis and Dr. Gaudet. 
The latter came to the conclusion that Mr. Mason 
suffered from a gastric affection, complicated by 
heart disease, and recommended him to take a 
course of the medicinal waters at Vichy, to be 
bled copiously, to use various external applica- 
tions, to pass a winter in Italy, and, finally, " not 
to leave Paris without taking the advice of a 
celebrated doctor, that his opinion may be enough 
to tranquilise Mr. Mason, and to be of use to 
the physicians that he would be obliged to con- 
sult in his future days." In accordance with this 


counsel, Dr. Louis was called in, and a most 
elaborate written opinion was obtained from him. 
The sum of it is that he agreed with the diag- 
nosis of his colleague so far as gastric disorder 
was concerned, but doubted the supposed heart 
disease. He objected to bleeding, but recom- 
mended external applications, the drinking of 
Vichy water, &c. ; prohibited vigorous exercise ; 
and as to diet, he gave the following direc- 
tion : " His diet is (to be) mild without 
being debilitating ; he avoids all high-seasoned 
dishes, exciting liquors, coffee, strong wines, 
and particularly the sherry wine (Xeres)." 
One more eminent man was consulted in 
Paris — M. Franconneau Dufrene. He settled 
upon the stomach and the heart as the causes of 
illness, and recommended bleeding as a principal 
remedy. Unluckily, however, the patient did not 
get better under the multiplicity of doctors and 
methods of treatment ; and so he resolved to take 
the matter into his own hands by going to 
Malvern, and trying the water cure under Dr. 
Gully. In this, contrary to medical advice, he 
persisted for some months, and with permanently 
beneficial effect. On leaving Malvern, in the 
summer of 1842, he wrote out, for Dr. Gully, a 
description of his case, its treatment, and the 
results, and from this document, highly character- 
istic of the writer, an extract may be given : — 


" In leaving Malvern for a time, it gives 
me much pleasure to be able to do so with my 
health considerably altered for the better, and 
with every hope of its being eventually totally 
restored. After many years' exertion of my brain 
in business, my health failed. I became subject 
to attacks of a serious kind, in which my nervous 
system was so completely destroyed and shattered 
that I could not bear the slightest noise or light 
without excruciating agony. At such times my 
strength utterly left me. For several of these 
seizures I was treated by the first medical 
men in Birmingham, who tried all kinds of 
medicine, but I could never take more than 
two or three doses without symptoms which 
alarmed my medical attendants. My complaints 
were said to be caused by inflammation of the 
mucous membrane of the stomach. Between 
the attacks I never felt well ; my head was 
all confusion, my spirits often miserably low, 
and all attention to business was a pain to me. By 
medical advice, I tried travelling, and went to Paris, 
where I consulted M. Louis, the chief part of whose 
prescriptions consisted in warm baths and the 
drinking of the waters of Vichy, from both of 
which I derived benefit ; more, indeed, than I had 
hitherto got from anything. However, these did 
not keep off the serious attacks I have spoken of, 
and one of them coming on in December, I resolved 


not again to try the remedies that had so com- 
pletely failed before, but to sec what the water cure 
would do for me, although my medical friends at 
Birmingham prophesied my certain death if I did 
so. I came under the care of Dr. Wilson and Dr. 
Gully on the 26th of December, having all the 
symptoms I have mentioned in their worst degree. 
At the end of four weeks I was able to walk about, 
with a feeling of health that I had not known for 
several years ; there seemed to be little or no 
interval of convalescence, as in former illnesses. 
My appetite grew wonderfully ; my strength was 
enough to allow me to walk ten or twelve miles a 
day — generally four or five before breakfast. I con- 
tinued this treatment until the middle of February, 
when my medical attendants permitted me to return 
home to Birmingham. I have received benefit from 
the water cure when everything else had failed. I 
now feel sure that all the physic I have taken did 
me more harm than good, and if ever I am so ill 
again nothing shall persuade me to take another 
dose." This memorandum was written in 1842, 
and from that period until his last illness Sir Josiah 
Mason enjoyed excellent health. 

We have seen that one Continental journey 
was undertaken by Sir Josiah Mason in the vain 
search after health. Another, a few years later, was 
of a more pleasurable kind. In November, 1847, 
accompanied by Mrs. Mason, he started for a trip 


of relaxation, rendered necessary by his long and 
absorbing devotion to business. In his old age he 
was fond of dwelling upon the route and the 
incidents of this journey, which was then a more 
formidable undertaking as to time, fatigue, and 
cost than it is now. He went first to Ostend, and 
then to Brussels. Here he bought a carriage, and 
drove leisurely to Paris. Thence he proposed to 
go on to Tours immediately, but a curious incident 
delayed him. He reached the railway station just 
in time to see the gates closed in his face, and to 
hear the train start. It was vexatious, and the 
traveller was much annoyed. It was fortunate for 
him, however, that the delay occurred, for the train 
by which he was to have travelled was almost 
destroyed by an accident, and many of the 
passengers were killed. Sir Josiah used to say 
that since then he never felt annoyance at delays ; 
but, filled with gratitude to Providence for this 
escape, he concluded that hindrances when they 
occurred were Providentially designed for his 
protection. A few days later he went on to Tours, 
and drove thence to Bordeaux, over very bad roads, 
necessitating sometimes the use of several horses. 
At one part of the journey, he was accustomed to 
relate with much amusement, he travelled in 
almost regal state, for the carriage could be got 
along only by the help of eight horses, and a 
couple of stout bullocks in addition ! From 


Bordeaux Sir Josiah went on to Toulon and 
Marseilles, and thence by sea to Italy, where he 
visited Bologna, Naples, Florence, Venice, and 
Rome, being at the last-named city at the Carnival 
in March, 1848, just at the time when the Revolu- 
tion broke out. In Italy he made a large collection 
of bronzes and other works of art, in gold, silver, 
and other metal work, intending to use them in 
the business of Elkington and Mason, but much of 
the collection was lost by the death of an agent at 
Naples, whose effects were seized by the Govern- 
ment, and could never be recovered. At Naples 
the journey came abruptly to an end. It was the 
traveller's intention to go on to Egypt, and to 
make the customary voyage up the Nile ; but 
sudden calls of business compelled him to return to 
England, and he never found leisure, or perhaps 
inclination, to go abroad again. 

As, in time to come, every note of a man 
who conferred such benefits upon Birmingham 
will be of interest, a few words may be added 
as to his various residences. The first — in which 
his married life began — was a very humble one : 
a little cottage in a court in Baggot Street. From 
thence, on taking to Mr. Harrison's business of 
split-ring making, Mr. Mason removed to the 
house in Lancaster Street, on the site of the now 
existing pen factory ; at that time the place 
consisted of a little range of shopping, the modest 


dwelling-house (one room of which, as the pre- 
sent writer well remembers, was afterwards used 
as an office and counting-house), and a garden 
in the rear, in which Sir Josiah Mason used to 
recall with pleasure there was a summer arbour, 
long since effaced by the buildings of the manu- 
factory. Soon after the pen-making was begun, 
Mr. Mason formed the idea of retiring so soon 
as he had made £4,000 or £5,000, and this 
proposal was warmly seconded by his wife, for 
whom her husband's health and comfort had far 
stronger attractions than the acquisition of wealth. 
This project, destined never to be realised, was one 
of those Arcadian dreams which come across the 
minds of all busy, self-concentrated men, only 
to be dismissed again. But Mrs. Mason did 
her part towards executing it. She thought her 
husband suffered in health for want of a residence 
in the country ; he demurred to the notion, but 
she, resolute in her purpose of benefiting him, 
quietly went and took a house in Harborne Road, 
at Edgbaston, then — nearly forty years ago — 
really a country suburb of the town. Neither 
husband nor wife found themselves at home in 
their new residence, and then Mr. Mason had his 
turn. He bought seventy acres of land at Griffin's 
Hill, Northfield, on the Bristol Road, and built 
Woodbrooke, a pleasant house, in which he lived 
for some time. This he afterwards sold to his 



future partner, Mr. George R. Elkington, who 
lived in it for many years; after which it was oc- 
cupied by his eldest son, Mr. Frederick Elkington. 
From Woodbrooke, Mr. Mason removed to a 
house in Siade Lane, Erdington ; and then, to 
please Mrs. Mason, he built his final residence, 
Norwood House, at Erdington, on the main road 
from Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield. It was 
unpretentious in appearance, in accordance with the 
character of the owner ; but, also in keeping with 
his character, it was solid, ample, well-planned, 
and thoroughly comfortable, well ventilated, and 
well warmed — points to which he attached great 
importance. Sir Josiah's own room was to the 
front of the house — a quiet modest apartment, 
well stocked with books, and containing a few 
relics of his old friend, Mr. Harrison ; a few objects 
of Art which connected him with the business of 
Elkington and Mason ; specimens of his own 
work as a split-ring and pen maker ; portraits of 
himself and of old friends ; and a bust of Hahne- 
mann on the mantelpiece, for Sir Josiah was not 
the man to hide his belief in whatever system he 
practised. As to its arrangement, the room was a 
model of neatness ; the owner being able, from his 
methodical habits, to lay his hand upon any 
document at a moment's notice. The rest of the 
house consisted of a comfortable dining-room, a 
large drawing-room, and, leading out of it, a noble 


picture gallery, containing a fine and probably 
unique Viennese self-acting organ, set with 
selections from all the great classical masters. 
In accordance with Sir Josiah's last wishes, this 
organ was removed to the College, and is now 
placed in the Examination Hall. Along the 
side of the house was constructed a handsome 
terrace, leading down to the ornamental grounds 
and the meadows beyond ; and at the back was 
a range of greenhouses and vineries — for Sir Josiah 
was a famous grape-grower — and a charming 
garden, laid out in many-coloured parterres, em- 
bedded in grass plots. From the house a good 
view was obtained of the Orphanage buildings, 
the lofty towers of which closed and adorned the 
prospect. This association was appropriate, for 
the place and the estate belong to the Orphanage 
Trustees, forming part of their endowment. In- 
deed, as Sir Josiah used pleasantly to say, he 
had no place of his own, for while he remained in 
business he was the tenant of his College Trustees 
for his manufactory, and of his Orphanage Trustees 
for his house. 

The opening of the College was the last 
public act of Sir Josiah Mason's life. For a few 
months afterwards he occasionally visited the 
College, and busied himself with superintending 
the minor details yet requiring to be completed, 
and he continued also to take a keen interest in 


the Orphanage, which, being close to his residence, 
he could frequently inspect. It became evident, 
however, to those admitted to his intimacy, that 
his course was nearly run. He was able, though 
with some difficulty, to receive the trustees and 
professors of the College at dinner on his birth- 
day, the 23rd of February, 1881 ; but those who 
then saw him, observed with pain that his 
physical health was fast failing, and in particular 
that his increasing deafness and his decaying sight 
cut him off almost wholly from communication 
with all but his immediate attendants. His mind, 
however, still continued keen and unclouded, and 
in this condition it remained up to the close of 
his life. In the month of April the end was per- 
ceptibly drawing near. Sir Josiah took cold, and 
was confined to the house. One day, on 
leaving his bath, he missed his footing while 
walking, and fell. This accident brought on 
a return of a complaint which had troubled 
him in years past, and thus he was confined to 
his bed. It seemed probable even then, notwith- 
standing his great age, that his intense vitality 
would once more assert itself, and that his life might 
be prolonged ; but despite the sedulous attention of 
Dr. Gibbs Blake and Dr. Huxley, his medical 
advisers — who watched him literally night and 
day for weeks — this hope was unfulfilled ; and 
on the evening of the 16th of June, 1881, he sank 


into his rest ; passing out of life without pain, in 
a quiet sleep that knew no waking. The burial 
took place at Erdington, on the 25 th of June. 
The following account of the ceremonial is ex- 
tracted from the Birmingham Daily Post: 

In accordance with the express direction of the deceased, 
he was interred in the vault in the Orphanage grounds, where 
his wife was buried about seven years ago, and over which he 
erected a handsome mausoleum to her memory. The proceedings 
also, by his express directions, were of the simplest possible 
character. The mourners consisted of a few relations and 
intimate friends, including the trustees of the two noble 
foundations with which the name of Sir Josiah Mason is 
associated ; and the only spectators were the children of the 
Orphanage, the inmates of the Mason Almshouses, and a 
limited number of persons, most of whom where connected with 
the staff of the Orphanage or the Science College, or with 
mercantile undertakings in which Sir Josiah was interested. 
The procession, which left Norwood House, the residence of 
the deceased, consisted of Dr. Gibbs Blake and Dr. J. C. 
Huxley, who attended Sir Josiah during his illness ; the coffin, 
borne by eight servants and workpeople; and the following 
mourners : Mr. G. J. Johnson, Mr. Martyn J. Smith, the Mayor 
of Birmingham (Alderman K. Chamberlain), Alderman Avery, 
Mr. R L. Chance, Messrs. J. T. Bunce, Dr. Heslop, 
G. Hookham, F. Holliday, J. Player, and W. Rogers, trustees 
respectively of the College and Orphanage; F. Elkmgton, 
J. B. Braithwaite (London), J. F. Stewart (Dundee), C. A. 
Harrison, E. D. Eobinson, S. Jevons, J. B. Mathews, and 
W. Hodgkiss. The route taken was by the private grounds 
attached to Sir Josiah's residence, terminating at the small gate 
nearest the Orphanage, and thence along the high road. A 
considerable crowd watched the procession pass, and in a 
marked degree testified their respect for the memory of the 
deceased. At the Orphanage the procession was joined by the 
elder inmates, consisting of about 150 boys and 200 girls, many 
of whom were much affected. Among the other spectators who 



assembled at the entrance of the vault were Professors Tilden, 
Bridge, Poynting, and Arber, of the Science College ; Mr. S. 
Allport, the Curator and Librarian ; Mr. G. H. Morley, 
Secretary ; Mr. "W. Bach, a former trustee of the Orphanage ; 
the Rev. B. "Wright, Messrs. M. Pollack, S. F. Eollason, 
"W. E. Riley, J. H. Barclay, "W. Clements, and a number of. the 
students at the College and officials of the Orphanage. The 
funeral service was conducted by the Rev. H. H. Rose, vicar of 
Erdington, and consisted of an abridgment of the Church of 
England burial office. Previously to the Benediction an 
appropriate hymn was sung by the children with very touching 
and impressive effect. At the conclusion of the service, a large 
number of those present descended into the vault, and two 
large wreaths of flowers were placed upon the coffin by 
representatives of the children. The coffin was of polished oak, 
with brass furniture, and bore a plate with the following 
incription: — "Sir Josiah Mason, Knight- Born 23rd February, 
1795 ; died 16th June, 1881." The following mourning card, 
admirable in its selection of commemorative texts, was issued : — 

In Affectionate Memory of 


Founder of 

The Orphanage and Almshouses at Erdington, 

The Mason Science College, Birmingham, 

Born at Kidderminster, February 23rd, 1795 ; 
Died at Erdington, June 16th, 1881. 


I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, 
and him that had none to help him." — 
Job xxix., 12. 

" By the blessing of the Lord, I profited, and filled my 
wine-press like a gatherer of grapes. Consider 
that I laboured not for myself only, but for 
all them that seek learning." — Ecclesiasticus 
xxxiii., 16, 17. 


Personal Characteristics. 

This Memoir would be incomplete without 
some endeavour to estimate the character of the 
subject of it ; and to put him, so far as that is 
possible, clearly before the reader. The portrait 
prefixed to the volume will give an idea of his 
personal appearance. The broad and high forehead 
indicates the possession of perceptive and reflective 
faculties in an unusual degree ; the keen deep-set 
eyes, well shaded by prominent eyebrows, sparkle 
with intelligence ; the lines of the mouth, strong 
and firm, display resolution and tenacity of 
purpose, and yet not devoid of kindly humour. 
The white hair, thick and very soft, and the long 
and ample snowy beard, give a venerable aspect, in 
keeping with the character of the man. But no 
portrait can adequately convey the rfemarkable 
mobility of the living face — strong, serious, and 
humorous in repose ; but lit up with animation 
when the feelings were called into play ; sometimes, 
especially when children were in question, ex- 
tremely tender and winning ; sometimes, again, 
firm, eager, and stern, when matters of enterprise 
or business were under consideration. Only a 


series of portraits, each happily taken at the right 
moment, could set forth these varying moods. 
There were two such portraits formerly hanging on 
the wall of Sir Josiah Mason's private room, at 
Norwood House. One of them was very sweet, 
paternal, and affectionate in expression ; the other 
was fixed in a severe and resolute air. Looking at 
them one day, the writer of these notes ventured 
to say, " Sir Josiah, here are distinctly two men in 
these likenesses. Look at this mouth ; and then 
at this." " Ay," said Sir Josiah, pointing to the 
severer portrait, "that is my business mouth." 
The distinction thus made was a key to the 
character of the man. Sir Josiah Mason had his 
business side and his benevolent side, and these 
were in practice kept separate. He was good at a 
bargain, and liked it, both the negotiation and the 
profit. He was not easily taken in ; nor did he 
readily allow an advantage t& pass out of his hands. 
Like all men who have risen from humble begin- 
nings, and have made money by their skill and 
industry, he was quite sensible of the value of it, 
and had real pleasure in the creation and 
accumulation of wealth. A sixpence had its 
value in his eyes, and was well worth earning 
or saving. In hands capable of using it, money is 
power; and he knew it — though in his case the 
power, that of doing works of great beneficence, 
differed alike in character and enjoyment to that 


for which most men use their wealth. A true 
business man, Sir Josiah was just both to himself 
and to others : he expected those whom he em- 
ployed, or with whom he dealt, to fulfil their 
contracts fairly and completely ; as he was ready to 
fulfil his with them. He would pay for a thing 
only what it was worth; but then he was no 
niggard in rating the value. With him the service 
measured its reward : if a man was faithful, 
laborious, and skilful, he was recompensed accord- 
ingly ; if an invention promised to answer, the 
inventor wa3 liberally and even generously treated 
with. But no man could hope to make money by 
him without rendering good service and full value 
for it; nor could he ever himself be tempted to try 
a short road to fortune by idle or dreamy speculation. 
Yet, when occasion required, he could spend largely 
and venture widely in order to make important 
gains. This was not speculation; for he had in 
him nothing of the speculator of the gambling or 
hazardous type. It was not chance to which he 
trusted, or luck, but solid calculation, aided by 
the rare faculty of being able to see, as by in- 
tuition, when an enterprise would succeed. This 
was illustrated by his connection with the electro- 
plating trade. He was advised not to engage 
in the supposed hazardous experiment; but judg- 
ing for himself, and seeing that the new art was 
capable of wide and profitable application, he 



accepted Mr. Elkington's proposals of partnership, 
and immediately devoted his time, energy, thought, 
and money without stint, to make the success 
which he foresaw. An observer, who was then 
well acquainted with Birmingham, writes, "People 
saw the vast establishment in Newhall Street 
rising and extending, and wondered whence came 
the thousands that were sunk in it." They came, 
as is now well known, out of Josiah Mason's pocket, 
and the freedom with which he spent them, and the 
patience with which he waited, were well rewarded 
in the long run. It was the same with his other un- 
dertakings — the copper- works and the pen-works. 
His latest venture, commenced in old age, and 
vigorously prosecuted up to the close of his life, 
told the same tale. This was the refining of nickel 
from a rich but extremely difficult ore, found in 
New Caledonia. Sir Josiah was warned against it 
by able scientific and practical men, but he trusted 
to his own convictions in the matter, and though 
at first he lost heavily, and for several years 
seriously, yet he still persevered and triumphed 
at last. No man, indeed, knew better how to spend 
lavishly in order to get largely. One of his 
favourite sayings was, "I like to embark in 
an enterprise only when one or both of two 
things are connected with it : a great difficulty 
to be overcome, or a large amount of capital 
to be laid out." 


The business faculty spoken of above showed 
itself in many ways. Sir Josiah Mason was a rigid 
economist of time. He wasted nothing. Through- 
out his life, from morning till night, every hour 
had its occupation : the hands were never folded ; 
the brain was never at rest. If he did not spare 
others he did not spare himself. Work was his 
pleasure ; he sought relaxation only in a change 
of labour. With him it was not "go," but 
" come," for whenever work had to be done, he 
was first in doing it. Even at eighty, when he 
retired from lines,, hi, J^ and his 
power of endurance would almost wear out younger 
men. Up to that great age he was in his study 
early in the morning, then at his works, then home 
to other employments, which lasted him till night. 
In earlier days, this energy — amazing as it was in 
old age — was still more strongly marked. He was 
one of the first men to set foot in his factory, and 
one of the last to leave it. While there he saw, 
knew, supervised, and arranged everything from 
one end of the place to another. He could take in 
hand, with equal ease, the smallest details and the 
largest transactions. Propose to him an enterprise 
involving thousands of pounds, or an invention 
requiring a small fortune to perfect it by experi- 
ment, and he would consider either, and dispose of 
them, with marvellous quickness of insight, and a 
rapidity of decision that might have seemed like 

156 LIFE OF J 081 AH MASON. 

guess-work, but that it was rarely or never wrong. 
Yet, while thus quick and self-relying in judgment, 
he never disdained advice, or neglected to seek infor- 
mation which might aid his decision. He was wholly 
free from the small vanity of believing himself 
always right. His power of detachment, even while 
considering important business, was remarkable. 
While vast affairs occupied his mind, he could turn 
aside from them to settle a minute point of detail 
with a workman or a clerk, or to answer a chance 
question from a casual visitor. If a process went 
wrong, he could often set it right at once; if a 
machine would not work, his thorough knowledge 
of mechanics enabled him to overcome the hitch ; 
if some new tool were wanted, he could make it ; 
if a workman asked for employment, the master 
was ready to test him personally, and even to give 
him lessons in his trade. And it was all done with 
ease as well as with certainty. There was never 
any flurry. Though always one of the hardest 
working of men, Sir Josiah Mason was always one 
of the most deliberate. Goethe's motto, " unhast- 
ing, unresting," formed the rule of his life. A 
friend who was closely associated with him in 
business for many years, writes: — "He was in the 
habit of sitting thinking quietly and undisturbed 
for half an hour, and often for an hour, before he 
went to bed. He then resumed in his mind the 
events of the day, and made his plans for the 


morrow. He considered that to this method of 
reasoning upon all matters with which he was 
connected he owed the greatest successes of his 


One great quality contributed largely to make 
this character, and to attain these results — a 
remarkable faculty of organisation. In his life, his 
house, his manufactory, everything was orderly, 
thoroughly well arranged, carefully subordinated to 
the central idea of his plan ; nothing was left to 
chance. With him, in business, every person em- 
ployed had his due place and his clear duty, every 
material arrangement was made to work in due 
relation to the rest, one department led naturally 
from another, neither time nor space was lost or 
misapplied ; wherever machinery could supplement 
or relieve hand labour, there the newest examples 
of such machinery were to be found. It was not 
only in relation to the work that this faculty was 
exhibited. The workers themselves had the benefit 
of it — their health and convenience being a 
special consideration with him. Large, lofty, well- 
ventilated, and well-lighted shops were provided, 
so that no injury might be caused to the health of 
the thousand people — men, women, and children — 
who worked in his pen factory. Cleanliness was 
enforced : each department had its special washing 
places and other conveniences ; good order was 
secured, not only by careful superintendence, but 


by particular arrangements for such seemingly 
trivial matters as the hanging up of the clothes of 
the workers, and the provision of cooking places. 
Thus, the whole place — vast as it was — worked 
like a machine ; noiseless, easy, regular, without 
friction : the care and forethought of the master 
thus brought out the best working power of the 
people employed, and made them feel that in a 
sense they belonged to him. This feeling was 
helped by his thorough acquaintance with them. 
A powerful memory enabled him to know all his 
people ; and a natural kindness of disposition aided 
him in managing them as much through regard 
as through mastery. It was the same in the 
Orphanage as in the factory. All the plan of the 
building was his own ; every part was thought out 
as carefully, even to the least detail, as if it were a 
home for children of his own, instead of for his 
children by adoption. Nothing was more pleasant 
than to walk with Sir Josiah through the Orphanage 
or the factory. He knew everybody, and was 
known to all. From young and old he received 
friendly greetings ; and in return he had a ready 
smile and a kindly and encouraging word for each. 

Simplicity was a great characteristic of Sir 
Josiah Mason. He thought clearly, quickly, and 
powerfully, and spoke always with plain directness. 
There was no beating about the bush with him : he 
knew what he desired and went straight to it. 


From petty vanity he was entirely free ; nor was 
there any trace of selfish ambition in his nature. 
Naturally he had a keen self-appreciation ; he knew 
thoroughly what he could do ; he was gratified at 
the interest taken in his great works of charity, and 
never hesitated to speak frankly about them. Nor 
did he seek to hide the humble beginnings of his 
life. He would talk with pleasure of early 
privations and labours, and of the successive steps 
by which he had risen ; but he talked of these not 
as a man recounting his own deeds, or as caring for 
them, but as an old man recalling for the benefit of 
younger men the memories of scenes and times 
long past. There was nothing of Mr. Bounderby 
about him ; no ostentation of humility ; no self- 
laudatory comparison of what he was with what 
he became. Few men had a greater right to speak 
of themselves ; but very few indeed left themselves 
so much in the back-ground. It has fallen out 
from circumstances that Sir Josiah Mason's name 
has become known throughout the land ; but 
if he could have had his way, it would not have 
happened so. His great desire through life was 
to avoid notoriety. His father's caution made a 
strong impression on the boy's mind— " Josiah, let 
nobody know what thee's got in thee pocket." He 
used often to tell, with much amusement, a story 
illustrating his observance of this lesson. When 
fortune began to smile upon him, and money came 


in pretty fast, he began to think that it ought to be 
invested somewhere. So he went, wearing his 
paper cap and apron, to Mr. Palmer, the solicitor 
who, until death severed them, remained, his trusted 
and confidential adviser. " What do you want ? " 
Mr. Palmer asked. " Well," said Mason, twisting 
his cap, " I've got a bit of money that I want to 
put out somewhere." "How much?" "About 
three thousand pounds; it's in the bank — but I 
don't want anybody to know of it." " Very well," 
said the lawyer, "I'll tie it up for you tight enough; 
and if you don't talk, those who borrow it won't 
say a word." Mason did not talk — he always had 
the power of holding his tongue, when he thought 
that was desirable. As he grew in wealth he still 
kept silence ; he lived so modestly that no one 
knew how wealthy he was, though he had a vague 
reputation of riches ; and his quietude enabled him 
to mature his great schemes of spending, without 
the annoyance of interested or unwise advisers. The 
same desire for quietude led him always to shrink 
from public employment of any kind. Even 
in business he kept his name concealed so 
much that for a long time few persons connected 
him with the firm of Elkington and Mason; and 
it was only in late years that he became 
known by name in his trade of a pen-maker. 
Always adverse to publicity, and shrinking, almost 
with nervousness, from assuming the place to which 


his vigour, capacity, and largeness of view entitled 
him, he never sought or accepted any position of 
public trust or honour. So reluctant was he to put 
himself forward, that when his Orphanage was 
finished, he insisted upon opening it without any 
public ceremony, and was even unwilling to allow 
a notice of the event to be published in the news- 
papers. It was a work of much difficulty, from 
the same cause, to induce him to lay the foundation 
stone of his College ; and it required the united 
persuasion of the Trustees to overcome his dislike 
to the limited ceremonial finally determined upon. 
Twice only did he yield in personal matters of this 
kind to the solicitations* of his friends— once in 
accepting the honour of knighthood offered him by 
Mr. Gladstone on behalf of Her Majesty, as a 
recognition of his public benefactions ; and again 
in accepting for a few months the post of Chairman 
of the Birmingham Banking Company, an under- 
taking formed in 1866 to mitigate in some degree 
the failure of a former company bearing the same 
name. This was the only official position he ever 
occupied : his great delight being in the hard work 
and enterprise of his business undertakings, and 
his relaxation consisting in a very simple and 
natural home life, in watching the progress of his 
Orphanage and Almshouses, and afterwards in 
making the plan and erecting the buildings of his 



The home life of Sir Josiah Mason was in strict 
accordance with the simplicity of his character. 
Many persons of a tenth of his means kept a more 
showy establishment; but he carel nothing for 
show. His habits were extremely simple. He 
was an early riser, and a plain liver — eating lttle, 
and of the simplest food, abstaining almost entirely 
from wine, and quite from spirits; nor did he 
smoke — he tried once, he said, but it made him ill. 
His hours were regular ; he took much exercise on 
foot ; at over eighty he walked with a firm elastic 
step, faster and more vigorously than many men at 
fifty. Company had few charms for him, though 
to the few persons who knew him well, no man 
could be a more cheerful, or courteous, or kindly 
h os t — and those few he was always glad to see. 
The chief relaxations he permitted himself were 
gardening — he had a great love of flowers ; music, 
occasionally, in which he had a good taste ; and the 
collection of works of Art, though of late years he 
made no additions to his picture gallery. 

From what has been said it may be judged 
that Sir Josiah Mason lived a cheerful life. This, 
indeed, was a marked feature of his character — 
evenness of temper, serenit y of disposition, calmness 
and kindly cheerfulness. He could bear the loss 
of money with fortitud e ; and his strength of will 
enabled him to endure with calmness other losses 
more nearly touching his affections. His modera- 


tion of temperament, however, did not exclude what 
may be called loveable qualities, for he was quick in 
affection, constant to the memory of old friends 
and relatives long since dead, close and firm in his 
regard for those who were left to him, and prompt 
to give his confidence with fulness and sincerity 
to those whom he had proved. Politics never 
attracted him. In religion he described himself as 
"unattached/' for he belonged to no particular 
denomination — his dread and dislike of clerical 
influence kept him separate. This is indicated by 
the provisions of his Orphanage and College trust 
deeds, which require the Trustees to be always 
laymen and Protestants, though he laid no such 
restrictions upon either teachers or students. The 
dogmatic and ecclesiastical aspects of religion were 
repugnant to him ; but for all this he was a sincere 
believer in Christianity, especially in its practical 
aspects. Faith was much with him ; but, following 
St. Paul, he believed that faith without works is 
dead. Of one thing he was firmly persuaded — of 
the direct interposition of the Almighty in the 
lives of men. He believed, and reverently declared, 
his own life to have been frequently guided in this 
way at critical periods. His meeting with his old 
friend Mr. Harrison is one of the instances he was 
accustomed to cite in proof of this belief; his 
preservation from falling a victim to a railway 
collision in France, by a seemingly accidental delay 


of his journey, was another; and the impulse 
which led him to think of establishing his Orphan- 
age was a third. He not only believed in direct 
interpositions of Providence in individual cases, 
but he also believed it to be possible to receive 
communications from another world. He often 
mentioned, with much solemnity, and with absolute 
conviction, an instance which he alleged to have 
occurred to himself. It happened on the evening 
of the 22nd of September, 1865, and the narrative 
is now given, as nearly as possible, in his own 
words : 

" My partner, Mr. Elkington, was ill, at Pool 
Park, where he lived, in Denbighshire. I was in 
my study, at Norwood House, at Erdington [the 
place in which the writer heard the narration]. I 
had got up from the table to put away some papers, 
when I heard a strain of music, very sweet and 
solemn, and unlike anything I had ever heard 
before. It began with a low note, then swelled out 
louder, continuing for some time, and then dying 
gradually away. It seemed to come from the 
chimney-piece. I listened, awe-struck and silent. 
In a few moments it was repeated, just the same as 
before — first a low tone, then a fuller one, and then 
dying away. I went, in a little while, into the 
dining-room, where my wife was sitting, and I 
said, ' My dear, Elkington is dead ; I am sure he 
is.' The next morning, when I went down to 


Lancaster Street, I had not been there long when 
Mr. Kyder [a gentleman employed by Elkington 
and Mason] came in with an appearance of distress. 
I said, ' Eyder, I know what you are come for, you 
need not tell me — Elkington is dead; I knew it 
last night.' " 

But a few touches need be added to this 
estimate of Sir Josiah Mason. He possessed natural 
gifts, mental and physical, which, had his lot been 
different, might well have led him to a high 
and useful position in the State. Keen insight 
into character, the faculty of managing men, ability 
to foresee events, capacity to mark out lines of policy, 
patience to wait for their accomplishment, quick 
sympathy, firm and unconquerable will, unusual 
organising skill, and remarkable power of endurance 
— these are the qualities which mark the States- 
man ; and Sir Josiah Mason possessed them in 
such a high degree that, had he been so placed 
as to call them out for the benefit of the 
nation, he might have been foremost amongst the 
ranks of those who have made England great. 
But though humbler, his life was not less honour- 
able or useful as a true captain and leader of 
industry. In another aspect it was more than 
honourable, it was noble in the self-sacrifice of his 
later years, and in the application of the wealth 
he had acquired. In the wisdom of their nature 
and method his works speak best for themselves. 


Their aim is education in the broadest sense — 
education with true tenderness for helpless children 
in the foundation of his Orphanage ; education with 
direct reference to scientific and industrial progress 
in his Science College. The motto adopted for the 
College — " Progress through Knowledge " — was the 
practical maxim of his life. The value of such work 
is incalculable. The method of it was not less lofty 
than the purpose. It was no mere gift of money 
for others to deal with ; no bequest of means which 
the owner could no longer enjoy. The plans of his 
institutions were laid out and the foundations 
organised and set to work in the Founder's life- 
time, with the benefit of his own counsel and 
direction. The vast sums thus destined for public 
use were withdrawn absolutely from his own 
control. Provision was made alike for freedom and 
for perpetuity of management by placing both the 
Orphanage and the College under the guardianship 
of the governing body of the community in which 
the Founder lived. In the trust deeds there is no 
limit to the powers of the trustees ; no superstitious 
reverence for the " pious founder." In place of the 
dead hand there is the living mind expressed 
by a positive requirement of due revision at 
fixed periods. Thus, Josiah Mason's foundations 
will go down to posterity, monuments of wealth 
nobly employed, examples of institutions devised 
alike to meet the claims of to-day, and capable of 


being adapted to the changing necessities of the 
future. May their usefulness and the memory of 
this Founder alike be perpetual ! 

Here the writer closes this estimate of Sir 
Josiah Mason, conscious of its defects, but feeling 
that he has tried to do justice to a man of 
whom posterity will be glad to know something, 
however imperfectly it may be told ; desirous to 
put on record the life of one whose work and 
character, from intimate acquaintance, he was led 
first to appreciate, and then to revere. 





[arranged in alphabetical order.] . 

t Blake, James Gibbs ... 

* Cooper, James Alfred 

* Downing, Joseph 

* Edwards, Samuel 

* Gilliver, William 

* Hart, William Henry 
t Holliday, Frank 

t Jevons, Solomon 

t Johnson, George James 

* Lloyd, George Braithwaite 
t Player, John ... 

t Rogers, William 

t Smith, Martyn Josiah 

* Wilson, John Edward 

Date of Appointment. 

„. 29th July, 1868* 

... 2nd August, 1881. 

... 2nd August, 1881. 

... 2nd August, 1881. 

... 2nd August, 1881. 

... 2nd August, 1881. 

... 13th July, 1880. 

... 1st January, 1878. 

... 13th July, 1880. 

. . 2nd August, 1881. 

... 8th February, 1881. 

... 1st January, 1878. 

... 1st January, 1878. 

... 2nd August, 1881. 

t Ordinary Trustees appointed by the Founder. 

* Official Trustees appointed by the Town Council of Birmingham. 

February, 1882. 











[arranged in alphabetical order.] 


* Date of Appointment. 

* Avery, Thomas 

• • • 

... 2nd August, 1881. 

t Blake, James Gibbs ... 

• • • 

... 12th December, 1870. 

t Bunce, John Thackray 

• • • 

... 24th January, 1873. 

* Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. 


M.P. 2nd August, 1881. 

* Chamberlain, Richard 

• • • 

... 2nd August, 1881. 

* Dixon, George 

• • • 

... 2nd August, 1881. 

t Heslop, Thomas Pretious ... ... 24th January, 1873. 

t Hookham, George ... ... ... 1st May, 1880. 

t Johnson, George James ... ... 12th December, 1870. 

* Martineau, Robert Francis ... ... 2nd August, 1881. 

t Smith, Martyn Josiah ... ...1st May, 1880. 

t Ordinary Trustees appointed by the Founder. 

* Official Trustees appointed by the Town Council of Birmingham. 

February, 1882.